World news – International Holocaust Remembrance Day focusing on 1.5 million children killed by Nazis


As countries around the world celebrate International Holocaust Remembrance Day on Wednesday, online events will replace large gatherings at major sites of remembrance of the Jewish genocide.

The memorial, which was launched by the United Nations in 2005, marks the day on which Auschwitz-Birkenau – the largest Nazi death camp in Germany – was liberated by the Soviet army on January 27, 1945. A million Jews from all over Europe were murdered in gas chambers there in addition to 100,000 victims from Poland, Russia and other countries.

With COVID-19 deaths affecting many countries, some organizations are focusing on the plight of the youngest victims of the Holocaust: the 1,500,000 Jewish children murdered by Nazi Germany. Another theme shared this year is combating the « denial » of genocide, which – along with anti-Semitism – is on the rise around the world.

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In the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum in Poland, the commemorations will focus on the almost a quarter of a million children who were murdered locally by German Nazis. At least 216,000 of these victims were Jewish children, many of whom were deported to the extermination camp without families.

« The adult world – so often unfair and cruel – has never shown so much of its heartlessness and evil, » said Dr. Piotr M. A. Cywiński, Director of the State Museum.

« This [murder of children] cannot be justified by any ideology, accounting, or politics. This year we want to dedicate the anniversary of the liberation to the youngest victims of the camp, ”said Cywiński.

In Paris, a city through which thousands of Jewish children were deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau, the photographer Luigi Toscano has exhibited 200 of his Holocaust survivor portraits at the UNESCO headquarters. The indoor and outdoor exhibition entitled “Lest We Forget” runs until mid-February.

Almost all children brought to Auschwitz-Birkenau were murdered in gas chambers upon arrival. A little more than 700 children (of all nationalities) survived until the liberation, most of them because they were selected for « experiments » by « Doctor » Josef Mengele and other SS men.

Not far from the place where many « experiments » took place, Yad Vashem will organize a virtual tour through Auschwitz ‘block 27, where the Israeli Museum opened a permanent exhibition in 2013.

The galleries called « SHOAH » are designed to help people feel what has been lost as a result of the genocide. In an haunting room, film montages of pre-war Jewish culture are faded in and out, while impressive music becomes a crescendo. There is also a room with walls covered in children’s drawings recreated by artist Michal Rover.

In Israel and online, Yad Vashem will also focus on children and give presentations on post-Holocaust “children’s homes” created in Europe hold. Often run by Zionist youth activists, the houses have been turned into recreational areas for children orphaned in genocide.

Yad Vashem will focus on seven houses in countries from Poland to the Netherlands. The presentations were briefed through diaries some children kept of their post-war transformation.

In light of Holocaust denial and anti-Semitism in the post-war era, the United Nations and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum are focused on combating denial and bias of Genocide.

Wednesday’s commemoration at the Washington, DC Museum will focus on US President Dwight Eisenhower’s determination to « protect the truth of the Holocaust. » The granddaughter of the legendary Allied commandant, Susan Eisenhower, will speak about her grandfather’s efforts to document the Nazi atrocities as a first step in memory.

In the spring of 1945, Eisenhower’s tour of the Ohrdruf concentration camp in Germany included encounters with corpses, that were « stacked like wood » and « living skeletons » struggling to survive. Eisenhower immediately foresaw a day when people would deny these horrors.

« Get it all up now, » Eisenhower said. « Get the films, get the witnesses, because at some point on the street of history a bastard will get up and say this never happened, » said the commander, who invited the media to film a parade of German townspeople, brought to camp to bear testimony.

This week, for the first time, the United Nations and UNESCO will jointly organize a series of events to commemorate International Holocaust Remembrance Day. The organizations will start a social media campaign – #ProtectTheFacts – to make people aware of « the dangers of denying and distorting the Holocaust ».

According to statistics from UNESCO, 47% of the Germans surveyed in 2020 answered that Germany was « not particularly guilty » for the Holocaust. Two-thirds of young Americans don’t know how many people were murdered in the genocide, and – in Sweden – more than a third of social media statements referring to Jews contain anti-Semitic stereotypes or violent comments.

Also on Wednesday, UN Secretary General António Guterres, Director General Audrey Azoulay and German Chancellor Angela Merkel will pay tribute to the victims of Nazi persecution in a ceremony, followed by an online panel on denial and distortion of the Holocaust with historian Deborah Lipstadt.

“In relaying the story of this event, we uphold the principles of justice by rejecting the hateful logic of Nazism and challenging those who deny the Holocaust or relativize the crimes against Jews and other persecuted groups for trying to perpetuate racism and anti-Semitism that ve genocide Azoulay said.

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