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UPDATE: Holocaust survivors, world leaders mark Auschwitz anniversary in Poland

27.01.2020 11:00
Holocaust survivors and world leaders gathered in Poland on Monday to mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi German death camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau.
Entrance to the former Auschwitz death camp with the infamous Arbeit Macht Frei (Work sets you free) sign.
Entrance to the former Auschwitz death camp with the infamous "Arbeit Macht Frei" (Work sets you free) sign.Photo: PAP/Andrzej Grygiel

The day's ceremonies began at 8:30 a.m. when Polish President Andrzej Duda and several dozen survivors laid wreaths at the Death Wall in the former German concentration and extermination camp in southern Poland where thousands of prisoners were executed during World War II.

Polish President Andrzej Duda (centre) attends a wreath-laying ceremony at the Death Wall in the former Nazi German concentration and extermination camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau in southern Poland on Monday morning. Polish President Andrzej Duda (centre) attends a wreath-laying ceremony at the Death Wall in the former Nazi German concentration and extermination camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau in southern Poland on Monday morning.

The main memorial ceremony to mark the anniversary of the liberation of the camp was scheduled for later in the day.

More than 200 former prisoners and survivors were expected to attend that event in the southern Polish town of Oświęcim on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, alongside senior officials from more than 50 countries.

The presidents of Germany, Israel and Ukraine and the prime ministers of France, Sweden and Hungary were among those expected to take part.

The list of guests also included King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia of Spain, King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima of the Netherlands, and the Duchess of Cornwall.

Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin was slated to represent the United States during the ceremonies, while Russia was expected to be represented by its ambassador to Warsaw, Sergey Andreyev.

Polish President Andrzej Duda has been announced as the key speaker and host of the event at the site of the former Auschwitz-Birkenau camp.

The head of the World Jewish Congress, Ron Lauder, was also scheduled to speak during the main remembrance ceremony on Monday afternoon.

Lauder, who chairs the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial Foundation, earlier skipped the World Holocaust Forum in Jerusalem on January 23.

The Auschwitz-Birkenau Nazi death camp operated in German-occupied southern Poland between May 1940 and January 1945.

It was the largest of the German Nazi concentration and death camps.

More than 1.1 million people, mostly European Jews, as well as Poles, Roma, Soviet POWs and people of many other nationalities, perished at the camp before it was liberated by Soviet soldiers on January 27, 1945.

(gs)

Source: IAR, PAP