79th anniversary of the liberation of the former Nazi camp of Auschwitz  (AFP or licensors)

By Stefan J. Bos

Jan 29 2024

Worldwide, people observed Holocaust Remembrance Day on Saturday to remember the 6 million Jews as well as Sinti, Roma, and millions of others killed by the German Nazis and their collaborators during World War Two at a time of growing concerns about the future of Israel. Saturday’s ceremonies came amid mounting concerns about rising antisemitism after the Oct7 attack by Hamas in Israel that killed more than 1,200 Israelis and others.

Just three months after the worst atrocity in Israel’s modern-day history, the United Nations marked the International Day of Commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust by inviting survivors of what is also known as the Shoah.  

Governments were also among those gathering elsewhere on the 79th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau in Poland during World War II.

It is the day chosen to reflect on one of humanity’s darkest chapters, explains United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres. “Every year on this day – the day of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau – we honor the memory of the victims of the Holocaust. We come together in solidarity and sorrow to pay tribute to [the] six million Jewish children, women, and men murdered in the Holocaust. We grieve the Roma and Sinti. We mourn the millions of others tortured, starved, and killed by the Nazis and their collaborators,” he said.

“And today it is more important than ever, especially in the wake of the horrific Oct 7 Hamas attacks that claimed the lives of more than one thousand Israelis and others, injured many more, and resulted in the brutal seizing of hostages. Hostages that must be immediately and unconditionally released,” the UN chief added, prompting applause and shouts of “Bravo!”

He expressed concerns about rising antisemitism. That view is shared by Germany’s Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who on Saturday called all citizens to defend the nation’s democracy and fight hatred against Jews.

A report that right-wing extremists recently met to discuss the deportation of millions of immigrants, including some with German citizenship, also triggered massive demonstrations across Germany.

Half Mast

Flags flew at half mast in Germany to remember the six million Jews and others killed in the Holocaust.

More than one million died in Auschwitz-Birkenau, including the mother of Hungarian-born American psychologist Edith Eger, who wrote a best-seller about her experiences.

The now 96-year-old Eger survived Auschwitz-Birkenau in part by dancing for the sadistic Nazi doctor Josef Mengele. He [Mengele] grabbed me and said: ‘You are going to see your mother very soon; she is just going to take a shower.’ When I asked the guard when I would see my mother, the guard said: ‘She is burning there’, pointing at the chimney,” she recalled.

“And that is how I entered Auschwitz in the middle of May 1944,” Eger explained.

She was eventually freed by an African-American soldier while hiding under a pile of dead bodies, surviving the crimes initiated by Germany’s Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler. “I felt someone’s hand. And I looked up, and I saw tears in his eyes. And yes, I looked up; it was a man of color.” She briefly laughed. “I wished I could have seen him now. He must be in his late 90s for sure.”

Eger stressed: “I tell you I have three children, five grandchildren, and seven great-grandsons today. And that is my revenge to Hitler.” – Vatican News