‘Returns’ is theme of ceremony marking 71st anniversary of Auschwitz liberation

Marcy Oster

WARSAW, Poland (JTA) — Polish president Andrzej Duda and Croatian president Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic will attend the ceremony marking the 71st anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau.

The Polish president is an honorary patron of the commemoration which will take place on Jan. 27; Its theme will be “Returns.”

The ceremony will be attended by dozens of survivors and their relatives. The day before the ceremony there will be a meeting with Andrzej Pilecki, the son of Witold Pilecki, a Polish resistance fighter who was voluntarily imprisoned in Auschwitz. After escaping from the camp, he 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.

“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,” said Piotr Cywinski, director of the Auschwitz Museum, 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 Saturday, the Museum published a report on its activities in 2015. “Seventy years after the war our modern world increasingly worries us. 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,” writes Cywinski in his introduction to the report.

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

In Auschwitz the Nazis murdered 1.1 million people, mostly Jews, but also Poles, Roma, Soviet prisoners. On January 27, 1945 the camp was liberated by Red Army troops.

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