Reformatorisch Dagblad: Looking Around and Looking Ahead in Auschwitz

Omzien en vooruitblikken in Auschwitz

Bij zes graden onder nul en constante sneeuwval, kwamen donderdagmiddag duizenden mensen uit allerlei landen bij elkaar in het vernietigingskamp Auschwitz-Birkenau om de miljoenen slachtoffers van de nazi-terreur te herdenken. Ook koningin Beatrix en mr. Pieter van Vollenhoven waren aanwezig bij deze plechtigheid in het kader van zestig jaar bevrijding van Auschwitz.

Looking around and looking ahead in Auschwitz

The track to Auschwitz on which the Jews were brought by train.

At six degrees below zero and constant snowfall, thousands of people from all over the world gathered in the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp on Thursday afternoon to commemorate the millions of victims of Nazi terror. Queen Beatrix and Pieter van Vollenhoven were also present at this ceremony in the context of 60 years of liberation from Auschwitz.

The evening before the ceremony itself, a meeting already took place between survivors of Auschwitz, Russian liberators and dignitaries and rabbis from many countries. Shlomo Amar, the Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Israel, and Israel Lau, the former Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi, also attended the meeting. Chief Rabbi Lau had also experienced a lot as a prisoner in Buchenwald. “My grandparents had 47 grandchildren, 42 of them died in the war, I myself was one of the survivors,” said Lau. Stories like these made the evening a two-parted gathering. On the one hand it was a festive dinner because the liberation of Auschwitz was central and not the atrocities in the extermination camp. There were, however, several people present, particularly among the camp survivors, who found it difficult to eat, drink and listen to music together while thinking back to the war. The same double feeling came back to many during the official commemoration of Thursday afternoon. It was beyond doubt for those present that the “capital of the realm of death,” as Israeli President Moshe Katzav called Auschwitz, should be a warning to humanity. The speakers agreed that the atrocities of the Second World War, for which Auschwitz is a symbol, should not be forgotten. “This place is the terrible truth of the disappearance of humanity,” said Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski. The organization struggled to cope with the huge turnout during the commemoration in combination with the heavy snowfall of recent days. Visitors to the memorial often had to wait a long time for a bus to the camp and people had to stay on the camp site in the snow and cold during the ceremony. That confronted the visitors with the reality of the extermination camp. Despite warm clothing, visitors got cold within an hour. There was one woman who didn’t have a coat on. It was one of the survivors who returned to Auschwitz for the first time after sixty years. “I came back the way I lived here then,” she said as she grabbed the microphone, “because no one can forget that it was like that!” Although on the one hand there was joy and a feeling of triumph over evil, on the other hand there was the awareness of uncertainty and fear about the future. One of the Jewish survivors expressed how double it is to experience 60 years of liberation. “I dreamed in the camp that I would survive the war one day, to witness the end of fascism. I never thought I’d live another sixty years, and see anti-Semitism and fascism revive. ” The revival of anti-Semitism was therefore a topic that often came back during the memorial day. Rabbi Evers, who came to Poland with two of his sons and attended the memorial service himself, told how the fear of the Jews is growing again in the Netherlands. “Through the open anti-Semitism, which has been increasing in recent years, you can relive, as it were, the hatred of the Jewish people. It is already time for my mother, who was in Auschwitz, to say that it will be so bad again in twenty years that we can no longer continue to live here, “says Evers. Despite the fear and uncertainty caused by the fascism of the war and today, the hope of life still prevails. Izak Goldfinger, one of the Jewish survivors: “When we arrived at the camp, we all got a serial number tattooed on our left arm. Although that number meant death for many, for me it literally meant “life”. Isaac referred to the meaning of his number according to the Hebrew geometry (meaning of numbers). The number on his arm totaled eighteen, or chai in Hebrew, which means “life”. “I never had the number removed after the war, because it reminded me that life is in God’s hands, not mine or the Nazis or anyone else!” Izak Goldfinger was not the only one who emphasized that the Nazis could not get the Jews small. Chief Rabbi Israel Lau stressed Thursday morning during the forum “Let my people live!” That preceded the official ceremony: “After sixty years we are back in the land of death in Auschwitz to show that the Jewish people are alive!”

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