Auschwitz ceremony marking 71st anniversary of liberation

Marcy Oster

WARSAW, Poland (JTA) — President Andrzej Duda of Poland and Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic of Croatia are expected to attend the ceremony at the Auschwitz memorial marking the 71st anniversary of the concentration camp’s liberation.

Dozens of survivors and their relatives will also be on hand for Wednesday’s commemoration. Red Army troops liberated Auschwitz on Jan. 27, 1945 — the United Nations has designated the date as International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

The Nazis murdered 1.1 million people at Auschwitz-Birkenau, mostly Jews, but also Poles, Roma and Soviet prisoners. The commemoration features the theme “Returns.”

“Remembering all the victims, in a special way, during the upcoming anniversary, we want to mention people who, despite enormous trauma, attempted to return to normal life,” Piotr Cywinski, director of the Auschwitz Museum, said in a statement.

Some survivors returned to their families and to ruined cities, such as Warsaw, which was destroyed by the Germans.

“Others tried to restore a normal life after the hell of the Holocaust, and created, among others, the new State of Israel,” Cywinski said.

On Tuesday, there will be a meeting with Andrzej Pilecki, the son of a Polish resistance fighter who was voluntarily imprisoned in Auschwitz. After escaping from the camp, Witold Pilecki authored the first comprehensive Allied intelligence report on the genocide in Auschwitz and on the Holocaust. In 1948 he was sentenced to death for treason by the Communist authorities.

A record 1.72 million visitors came to the Auschwitz memorial in 2015, the museum announced earlier this month.

On Saturday, the museum published a report on its activities in 2015.

“Seventy years after the war our modern world increasingly worries us,” Cywinski wrote in his introduction to the report. “We all see and feel the growth of populism, xenophobia, nationalism, anti-Semitism, terrorism, wars. Meanwhile, we know well — too well — where power of hatred leads.”

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