independent

Sunday 20 April 2014

Holocaust Day marked around Europe

Flowers on a slab of the Holocaust Memorial to commemorate the victims of the Nazis at the International Holocaust Rememberance Day in Berlin (AP)

Holocaust survivors, politicians, religious leaders and others marked International Holocaust Remembrance Day with solemn prayers and the now oft-repeated warnings to never let such horrors happen again.

Events took place at sites including Auschwitz-Birkenau, the former death camp where Hitler's Germany killed at least 1.1 million people, mostly Jews, in southern Poland. In Warsaw, prayers were also held at a monument to the fighters of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of 1943.

Pope Benedict XVI, speaking from his window at St Peter's Square at the Vatican, warned that humanity must always be on guard against a repeat of murderous racism.

"The memory of this immense tragedy, which above all struck so harshly the Jewish people, must represent for everyone a constant warning so that the horrors of the past are not repeated, so that every form of hatred and racism is overcome, and that respect for, and dignity of, every human person is encouraged," the German-born pontiff said.

Not all words spoken by dignitaries struck the right tone, however.

On the sidelines of a ceremony in Milan, former Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi sparked outrage when he praised Benito Mussolini for "having done good" despite the Fascist dictator's anti-Jewish laws. Berlusconi also defended Mussolini for allying himself with Hitler, saying he was likely to have reasoned that it would be better to be on the winning side.

The United Nations in 2005 designated January 27 as a yearly memorial day for the victims of the Holocaust - six million Jews and millions of other victims of Nazi Germany during the Second World War.

The day was chosen because it falls on the anniversary of the liberation in 1945 of Auschwitz, the Nazis' most notorious death camp and a symbol of the evil inflicted across the continent.

"Those who experienced the horrors of the cattle cars, ghettos, and concentration camps have witnessed humanity at its very worst and know too well the pain of losing loved ones to senseless violence," US president Barack Obama said in a statement. The president added that like those who resisted the Nazis, "we must commit ourselves to resisting hate and persecution in all its forms.

"The United States, along with the international community, resolves to stand in the way of any tyrant or dictator who commits crimes against humanity, and stay true to the principle of 'Never Again'."

Press Association

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