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Bundestag honours the 74th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz

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By Philip Pangalos
Bundestag honours the 74th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz

The 74th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz was honoured by the German parliament.

Holocaust survivors asked the German government to take measures against a rise in xenophobia and nationalism.

Bundestag President Wolfgang Schäuble spoke of the lessons of history.

"We must not forget that history is above our obligation as we must recognise that there dangerous stereotypes and preconceptions still exist in our society. Exceptions and discrimination. Covert antisemitism. Old as well as new-born antisemitism. All its forms are not acceptable, especially in Germany," he said.

Holocaust survivors also spoke during the Bundestag event.

Saul Friedländer, the Pulitzer Prize-winning Israeli/French historian and a professor emeritus of history at UCLA, whose parents were taken to Auschwitz and murdered, is a member of the "Peace Now" movement.

From the Bundestag podium, he addressed Germany: "All of us (Holocaust survivors) hope that you Germans have the moral integrity to continue to fight for tolerance, integration, humanity and freedom, in a word: for real democracy," he said.

The rates of antisemitism are high in Germany. Of all its forms, the most problematic is the denial of the Holocaust. The xenophobic nationalist Alternative for Germany (AfD) party has representation in all the state parliaments as well as the Bundestag.

Chancellor Angela Merkel recently talked of a "worrying antisemitism, which threatens life in Germany", while according to a Eurobarometer poll 66% of Germans believe the problem is significant.

The Auschwitz Birkenau camp operated from 1940 until its liberation by the Red Army on January 27, 1945. Until the liberation, German Nazis murdered approximately 1.1 million people in Auschwitz, mostly Jews, but also Poles, the Roma, Soviet prisoners of war and people of other nationalities.

For the world today, Auschwitz is a symbol of the Holocaust and atrocities of World War II. January 27 was adopted as the International Holocaust Victims Remembrance Day by the United Nations in 2005. According to the UN, the purpose of this is not only to remember the victims of the Holocaust but also to promote the education of the Holocaust throughout the world.