Survivors of the Holocaust visited the former Nazi death camp Auschwitz on Monday (January 26), one day ahead of ceremonies marking the 70th anniversary of its liberation.
Those gathered in front of the gate with the inscription “Work sets you free,“offering a false promise of freedom, are some of the last people left alive to tell their story.
At a ceremony attended by heads of state on Tuesday (January 27), they will be delivering the speeches, but today they remain bitter that their voice is not heard.
“Some of the people still saying that it (the Holocaust) never happened. I’m here to tell the world it happened. And I’m strong enough, and I’m a victor. And the world has to learn from it and to live in peace,” said survivor from Canada, Mordechai Ronen.
He and almost 300 others have come to revisit the horrors of Auschwitz with one goal in mind – to keep its memory alive.
The German occupiers built the Auschwitz camp in 1940 as a place of incarceration for the Polish prisoners. From 1942 it became the largest site of extermination for European Jews. In Auschwitz, Nazi Germany killed at least 1.1 million people, mainly Jews, but also Poles, Roma, Soviet prisoners of war and prisoners of other ethnicities, including Germans.
In Auschwitz, people were killed in gas chambers, their bodies later burned in crematoriums.
“The whole world, Europe is forgetting about the whole thing they don’t want to know, that’s not true. They want to have proof… As proof – me, as proof my son, as proof those people… There’s no lies, they were killing people like nothing. It didn’t mean anything. The smell was so bad here from burning people,” recalls John Pekats.
On January 27, 1945 the camp was liberated by the Red Army soldiers. Some 7,000 sick prisoners including 130 children were found alive in the camp. From January 17 to 21, 1945 the Nazi’s marched approximately 56,000 prisoners out of Auschwitz.
These were, the so called, marches of death, where many prisoners were shot or died of exhaustion.