Today is the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp complex. His Royal Highness The Crown Prince and Prime Minister Erna Solberg represented Norway at the commemoration ceremony in Poland.
On 27 January 1945, Soviet troops reached the Auschwitz concentration camp, west of Cracow, where they found about 7 000 emaciated prisoners. The liberation marked the end of the genocide carried out by the Nazis, and the United Nations has declared this date as International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Some 65 000 people survived imprisonment in Auschwitz, and about 300 survivors are taking part in today’s ceremony along with heads of state from more than 30 different countries. Many survivors are making the difficult trip back to Auschwitz to help to ensure that this dark chapter in history never happens again.
Two of the three Norwegian survivors, Herman Kahan and Edith Notowicz (both originally from Transilvania), attended today’s ceremony.
The commemoration ceremony began at 3:30 pm in front of the entrance to the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, where President Bronisław Komorowski of Poland welcomed the guests. This is likely the last major memorial event that will be attended by such a large number of survivors, and it is the survivors who were given centre stage in today’s ceremony.
Representatives of the survivors gave speeches and led the lighting of candles at the monument. Later on, Crown Prince Haakon and Prime Minister Solberg lit candles at the Norwegian segment of the monument – place number 15.
Following the ceremony, the Crown Prince and the Prime Minister met with the Norwegian survivors.
Hard to comprehend numbers
“Auschwitz” is the general designation for three large camps and numerous smaller camps in the area, where Auschwitz-Birkenau functioned as an extermination camp. It is estimated that between 1.2 and 1.6 million people died at Auschwitz. The majority of these were Jewish. People of Romani descent, homosexuals, prisoners of war and political dissidents died in the camps as well.
Also from Norway
Norwegian Jews, too, were deported to the death camps at Auschwitz. On 26 November 1942, the DS Donau sailed from Akershus Quay in Oslo with 532 Norwegian Jews on board. The ship was headed for Stettin – and Auschwitz. Altogether, 772 Jews were sent from Norway to the Nazi concentration camps. Only 34 of them survived.
Each year, a commemoration ceremony marking International Holocaust Remembrance Day is held at Akershus Quay, where a monument for those deported has been erected. Today Her Royal Highness The Crown Princess was in attendance at the ceremony there.
Anti-Semitism still exists in Europe today. It is important to keep the extermination camps alive in our consciousness as a reminder of the potentially horrific consequences of intolerance and extremism.