The memory of the 6 million Jews murdered by the Nazis during World War II was honored around the world on Thursday, International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
German President Christian Wulff – accompanied by his Polish counterpart, Bronislaw Komorowski, and World Jewish Congress President Ron Lauder – paid his respects on a visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau, where about a million Jews were murdered during the war.
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“On International Holocaust Remembrance Day, the Jewish community and the survivors of the Shoah welcome the fact that President Wulff – who has only been in office for a few months and has already been to Israel – is visibly giving the issue of the Holocaust remembrance such a high political priority,” Lauder declared ahead of the ceremonies in Auschwitz and Birkenau.
“Clearly, Germany’s political leaders have learnt the lessons of the past, but much remains to be done throughout Europe to keep the memory of the darkest chapter in history alive, in order to prevent a future Holocaust.”
Wulff’s official delegation included several Holocaust survivors, the leaders of Germany’s Jewish community, and members of parliament. Together with Komorowski, Wulff was to visit the International Youth Meeting Center at Auschwitz.
Israel has a separate Holocaust Remembrance Day in late May. However, the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum hosted a small ceremony attended by a delegation from the United Nations, including its special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, Robert Serry.
The UN delegation laid a wreath in the Hall of Remembrance to remember the six million Jews, and others, killed by the Nazis. He was accompanied by Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon and Avner Shalev, chairman of the directorate of Yad Vashem.
At Yad Vashem, Serry read the message of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki- Moon, which spoke of the importance of the day of commemoration and the theme of this year’s events – “Women and the Holocaust: Courage and Compassion.”
In remarks at the end of the visit, Serry commented that the visit left “a very strong impression... It is one thing to read about the Holocaust and see films about it, but is another to look at the luggage, the shoes and the photos of those individuals sent to their deaths.”
He also spoke of the obligation to fight Holocaust denial: “Such denial desecrates the memory of the six million Jews and the many others murdered and opens the door to future atrocities.”
In Rome, a ceremony was held on Thursday evening at Rome’s Great Synagogue, organized by the local Jewish community and youth movements, including World Bnei Akiva.
At least 1,000 people – Jews and non- Jews – participated, including Rome’s Mayor Gianni Alenanno, representatives of the Italian government, the chief rabbi and Jewish community leaders.
Meanwhile, a study published on Thursday shows that Israelis, Poles and Germans believe that Israel should help fund the preservation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, whose buildings and artifacts are in need of restoration.
“All the participants were very supportive of preservation,” Gila Oren of the College of Management in Tel Aviv said. “Both Israelis and non- Israelis believe Israel should take part in the preservation, which it hasn’t to date, even though former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin promised NIS 100,000 years ago and that’s been forgotten.
The question is whether Israel should or shouldn’t have to pay to preserve the former Nazi concentration camp, and that’s an interesting question,” according the report.
The data was collected in a survey of 310 participants in major cities in Israel, Poland and Germany. In particular, the study attempts to identify financial aspects relevant to the site preservation.
The findings highlight participants’ positive response to personally donating toward the site’s preservation.
The average amount of money people are willing to donate is close to $10. Israelis are willing to donate up to $16, while Germans and Poles are willing to donate, on average, $8.50.