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World marks Holocaust Remembrance Day

May 2, 2019

The March of the Living took place in Poland, where participants gathered at the Auschwitz death camp. Israelis marked the day with silence and warnings about rising anti-Semitism.

Participants mark Holocaust Remembrance Day at the gates of the Auschwitz death camp in what is now Oswiecim, Poland
Image: picture-alliance/C. Sokolowski

Thousands of young Jews from around the world gathered in Oswiecim, Poland, on Thursday to mark Holocaust Remembrance Day. They marched alongside Holocaust survivors and international politicians at the site of the former Auschwitz death camp run by Nazi Germany.

Some 10,000 marchers, who walked along a 3-kilometer (1.8-mile) route between two sites at Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp, waved Israeli flags and banners highlighting the issue of rising anti-Semitism

Read more: 'Eva Stories': Remembering the Holocaust with Instagram

The March of the Living has been held annually since 1988, when it began as part of an education program for young Jews.

It is estimated that 1.1 million of the 6 million Jews murdered by the Nazis during World War II died at Auschwitz.

Sirens then silence in Israel

In Israel, the day was commemorated with the wail of sirens and sudden silence as millions of residents stopped what they were doing for two minutes — drivers stopped their cars and pedestrians stood in the streets with their heads bowed as a gesture of respect.

The day was also marked with a ceremony at the Yad Vashem World Holocaust Remembrance Center. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin both spoke at the ceremony.

Netanyahu said the hatred of Jews unified the radical right and left as well as radical Islamists. Rivlin warned against forging alliances with those who espouse anti-Semitism.

Netanyahu has drawn criticism for allying with far-right groups in Israel as well as populist leaders like Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who has been accused of fostering and profiting from anti-Semitic sentiment to advance his political agenda. Israel's treatment of Palestinians has also drawn broad international condemnation.

Emboldened anti-Semites

With anti-Semitic violence in the US and across Europe on the rise, right-wing activists in Germany caused outrage Wednesday when they marched in formation to the beat of drums, carrying torches through the streets of Plauen in the eastern state of Saxony.

Josef Schuster, the president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, voiced harsh criticism of the march, which he called "shocking" and "disturbing." He said it conjured "memories of the darkest chapter in German history."

Schuster called for state politicians to investigate just who had allowed the march to go ahead.

His sentiments were echoed by Green Party state parliamentarian Valentin Lippmann: "The sight of right-wing extremists marching with drums, torches, flags, and matching clothing invokes the Storm Trooper marches of the Nazi era."

Saxony had previously vowed to break up neo-Nazi networks in the state.

The march took place on the same day that Moshe Kantor, president of the European Jewish Congress, released a report documenting a 13% rise in "severe and violent" anti-Semitic crimes. Kantor said: "In 2018, we witnessed the largest number of Jews murdered in a single year for decades."

'I speak for the dead'

js/sms (AFP, AP)     

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