NEWS - Archive January 2007

Holocaust Day 2007

POLISH PRESIDENT: HOLOCAUST DENIERS MUST BE COUNTERED

29/1/2007- Attempts to deny the Holocaust must be countered, Polish President Lech Kaczynski said on Sunday in a speech of remembrance as part of a weekend of commemorations. "The truth about the Holocaust must be passed on from generation to generation," Kaczynski said in a speech read on his behalf at a ceremony in the former Warsaw ghetto, the site of a Jewish uprising against the Nazis in 1943. "We must oppose shameful attempts to deny the historical truth, in order that the biggest crime in human history never be forgotten," Kaczynski said. Kaczynski’s comments came three days after the United Nations adopted a resolution urging members to "reject any denial of the Holocaust as a historical event". Diplomats said the move was aimed at Iran, whose President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has cast doubt on the murder of six million Jews by the Nazis and their collaborators in World War II. In 1940, several months after invading Poland in September 1939, the Nazis forced some 500,000 Jews into the Warsaw ghetto, surrounding it with a high wall. About 100,000 died inside from hunger and disease, and over 300,000 were sent to death camps, mainly at Treblinka in eastern Poland. On April 19, 1943 a few hundred young Jews out of some 60,000 still alive in the ghetto decided to take up arms against their Nazi captors. Armed with only a few weapons and homemade explosives, they held out for three weeks. Sunday’s ceremony in the former ghetto was part of a worldwide series of events which began on Saturday to mark the second International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust.
EJP

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MORE CONSERVATION REQUIRED AT AUSCHWITZ HOLOCAUST SITE (Poland)

2/2/2007- Auschwitz is disintegrating. Over 60 years of winter snow, summer drought and millions of visitors have taken a heavy toll on the former Nazi death camp. Just as survivors visiting the camp dwindle each year, so time is bearing down on the prison buildings, the rusting barbed-wire fencing and remnants of the gas chambers left behind when the Germans fled in January 1945. Evidence of the victims -- hair, spectacles, children's toys and other belongings -- is also falling to pieces, eaten away by insects and mildew, its disappearance giving slow support to those who deny the Holocaust ever happened. Unless conservation is stepped up there may soon be little left of the biggest graveyard in Europe, where up to 1.5 million men, women and children, mostly Jews, were slaughtered. Now new management at the camp, which covers 190 hectares on two sites near Oswiecim in southern Poland, is accelerating work and hiring more staff to save the site as a lesson for future generations. "If there is one place in the world that should be kept as a reminder of the consequences of racism and intolerance, it is this one," said Piotr Cywinski, the Auschwitz's director since September. "But it gets more difficult every year." One of the problems facing Cywinski and his 260 staff at the site, now a museum, is that Auschwitz was not built to last. The concentration camp known as Auschwitz was actually two camps, and both are suffering serious problems. Israel Gutman, a former Auschwitz prisoner and adviser to the Yad Vashem holocaust institute in Israel, is determined to preserve the camp as long as possible, whatever the cost. "There are still people who claim the Holocaust never took place," he said.
Reuters

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AUSCHWITZ COMMEMORATION IN AMSTERDAM (Netherlands)

29/1/2007- Survivors and others gathered in the Wertheim Park in Amsterdam on Sunday to remember the Nazi atrocities of World War II. The annual Auschwitz commemoration was attended by Amsterdam mayor Job Cohen, State Secretary for Public Health Clemence Ross, and ambassadors and official representatives from Germany, France, Israel, Austria, Poland and Russia. The United Nations decided two years ago to designate 27 January as Holocaust Memorial Day. The Auschwitz Committee in the Netherlands has commemorated the Holocaust for decades on the Sunday that falls closest to 27 January. The liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp occurred on 27 January 1945. More than 107,000 Jews were deported from the Netherlands between July 1942 and September 1944. Only 5,200 survived the Nazi concentration camps and returned.

Teenagers arrested for Nazi salute
Two 14-year old boys from the town of Duiven spent Friday night in a police cell after giving the Nazi salute at a youth centre in their hometown. Staff at the youth centre had called the police. The boys first gave the salute inside the centre during a party and repeated the gesture outside after they had been asked to leave the event. The police report that the justice department will decide if any further steps will be taken against the teenagers.
Expatica News

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JEWISH GROUP CONDEMNS SPANISH 'GENOCIDE' MEMORIAL

31/1/2007- A Jewish group fighting anti-Semitism in the world has strongly condemned the decision of the Mayor of a Spanish city to hold a “commemoration of the Palestinian genocide” on the day of Spain’s official Holocaust memorial ceremonies. It called it “shameful.” The New York-based Anti-Defamation League (ADL) called it “shameful”. In a letter to Susana León Gordillo, Mayor of Ciempozuelos, a city near Madrid, and a member of the ruling Spanish Socialist party (PSOE), ADL’s chairman and national director, Glen S. Lewy and Abraham H. Foxman, said: “Your attempt to equate the industrialized mass murder of six million Jewish women, men and children, as well as millions of others, with the situation of the Palestinian people is shameful.” They added: “It reflects an extremely disturbing tendency, which is particularly visible in Europe, to dishonor the memory of the victims of the Holocaust and de-legitimize the State of Israel by seeking to eradicate the clear moral difference between the Holocaust and the loss of Palestinian lives as a result of the Arab-Israeli conflict.” “Applying the term ‘genocide’ to the Arab-Israeli conflict encourages hatred toward the State of Israel and deliberately insults those of us, both Jews and non-Jews, who seek to solemnly commemorate the victims of the Nazi campaign of slaughter,” ADL said. The League urged the Mayor to issue an apology for this “deplorable decision and to stand with the people of Spain in their commitment to respecting Holocaust commemoration day in the future.” Israel's ambassador to Spain, Victor Harel, denounced the city's decision, calling it a "foolish and vile idea". "It offends a large majority of the Spanish people who are united in several parts of Spain in memory of the victims of the Holocaust".
EJP

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THE HOLOCAUST: SWEDEN'S COMPLEX LEGACY

On 27th January 1945, the Soviet Army liberated Auschwitz, an event commemorated around the world on Holocaust Memorial Day. David Stavrou looks at the complex legacy of the Holocaust in Sweden, where the battle to promote tolerance still rages.

26/1/2007- Chavka Folman-Raban is a Jewish survivor of Auschwitz who arrived in Sweden a few days before the end of the Second World War. Like many other survivors, she was liberated by the Red Cross and found refuge in Sweden. "I'm not sure I can describe with absolute certainty the transition from being a prisoner in a concentration camp to being a free person", she says. "There was a great deal of excitement, with many events happening one after the other - it was an absolute shock."  Folman-Raban was only 15 when she became a member of the ZOB (the Jewish Fighting Organization) in Warsaw. She risked her life many times as a courier between the Jewish ghettos in Poland, and was sent to Auschwitz after being captured by the Germans while workind for the resistance in Krakow. "I will never forget that warm human touch", she says when remembering the Swedish nurses who treated her when she arrived in Malmö. In Sweden, she discovered that most of her family and many of her friends and comrades had perished in the war. Still, when she describes her first days at the refugee camp in Lund, the memories are good ones: "The Swedish residents of the city would crowd beside the gate and give us food and clothes, anything they thought might make us happy."  Folman-Raban, who later moved to Israel, was a beneficiary of Sweden's policy of accepting Jewish war refugees. Sweden was neutral and took in thousands of refugees from neighboring occupied countries during the war and many more after it ended. Swedish diplomats and members of the royal family also engaged in rescue attempts, humanitarian efforts and intelligence-gathering for the allies.

But Sweden's role in the Second World War had its darker side. It continued exporting vital iron ore to the German armaments industry and allowed the Germans to transit troops, supplies and communications through the country. Unlike Denmark, its southern occupied neighbor, which won the "Righteous Amongst Nations" award for saving nearly all its Jews, official Sweden played the role of a "bystander amongst nations", turning a blind eye to what was happening in Europe and looking after its own interests. An exhibition on Sweden and the Holocaust, opening in Lund, not far from where Chavka Folman-Raban enjoyed her first weeks of freedom, aims to shed light on this darker side of Sweden’s relationship to Nazism. The exhibition, accompanied by seminars and publication of new research, shows how Swedish industry benefited from the war and how Swedish scientific institutions were leaders in the fields of race biology and eugenic research. The exhibition also shows how Nazi ideals found Swedish sympathizers and how Sweden limited freedom of speech, and introduced immigration laws which turned away asylum seekers from Germany, many of whom were later murdered in concentration camps. The Lund project is one of a number to tackle the question of Sweden's relationship with racial ideologies. Another recent exhibition, in Dalarna, deals with Sweden being the first country in the world to establish a National Institute for Race Biology in the twenties. The exhibition renewed the debate on local racism, anti-Semitism and historical programmes of forced sterilization and race strengthening. Other recent studies show how during the Second World War, pro-Nazi Swedes took part in German propaganda broadcasts and how Swedish priests and courts applied Nazi race rules to marriages between Swedes and Germans.

Today, the Holocaust leaves a complex legacy in Sweden. On the one hand, the country is a leader in Holocaust education and the struggle against racism and intolerance. On the other hand, Sweden has seen continued clashes between neo-Nazis and left wing activists, and demonstrations against Israeli policy have turned anti-Semitic. Leading the campaign for Holocaust education is the Forum for Living History, a government agency commissioned to promote democracy and human rights, with the Holocaust as its point of reference. "We are forced to reflect on issues such as justice, humanity and personal responsibility but we avoid taking a political stand," says The Forum for Living History's Johan Perwe. "We focus on spreading knowledge about the darkest sides of human history, and want to influence the future". Reports and studies published by the Forum deal with various forms of modern intolerance amongst young Swedes, including Islamophobia, Anti-Semitism and homophobia. As in many other societies, such intolerance frequently breaks to the surface: violence and arrests have become an annual occurrence in clashes between Neo-Nazis and left wing activists in Salem near Stockholm.

The last couple of years have also seen other right wing extremists growing stronger and marching in Stockholm, Gothenburg and Linköping. A placard at an anti-Israel demonstration in Malmö last summer equated the swastika with the Star of David, firing a debate on whether the bearer should face criminal charges. And in January, a college teacher from Stockholm resigned after participating in the Holocaust denial conference in Iran. More broadly, reports show that hate crimes against minorities – mainly gay people and immigrants – have risen during the last few years. Some may say these are isolated events from the fringes of Swedish society. But Sweden's most popular far-right political party, the Sweden Democrats (Sverigedemokraterna), seems to be coming closer to the mainstream.

The Sweden Democrats have their roots in racist movements from the eighties; in last September's general election the party gained 2.93 percent of the national vote, a figure that rose to 22 percent in the southern town of Landskrona. The party denies being racist, but many are sceptical to these claims. The 2003 party manifesto proclaimed: "The critical ingredient of a safe, harmonic, solid and supportive society is the common identity, which in turn requires a high degree of ethnic and cultural uniformity amongst the people. From this, it follows that the nationalist principle of one state, one nation, is absolutely fundamental." Yet while the Sweden Democrats' rhetoric and racism of extremist demonstrators may bring uncomfortable echoes of the wartime past, there is one crucial difference: mainstream Swedish society today goes out of its way not to be indifferent.

When he announced Sweden's official Remembrance Day in 2000, former Prime Minister Göran Persson declared: "Our quest must be to increase our efforts to pass on the legacy of our past to future generations. We must be able to say to our children: There is always a choice. Not to choose is also a choice." Indeed, the empahsis of Holocaust Remembrance Day is not only on remembering the past; it's about the future too. The lessons of Humanism, Democracy and Equality are vital ones for Sweden – and they are words that permeate debate in the country. "We continue living, we go forward, while inside our heart there is a wound", wrote the young Auschwitz survivor Chavka Folman Raban in a letter she sent from Sweden, just after the war, "But at the same time this wound commands us to continue the eternal struggle for a better and more beautiful life".
The Local

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BUDAPEST HOLDS HOLOCAUST COMMEMORATION(Hungary)

27/1/2007- The second international Holocaust Remembrance Day was observed in Budapest on Saturday, Hungary's news agency MTI reported.  The official ceremony marking the 62nd anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp in 1945 was held in the capital's Holocaust Memorial Center.  In a written message, Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany stressed the responsibility of people remembering the Holocaust today. "The fight against forgetting is nothing less than a permanent effort against suppression, exclusion, discrimination and tyranny," he said. The ceremony was attended by Hungarian President Laszlo Solyom, Constitutional Court President Zoltan Lomniczi and the ambassadors of Germany, Poland, the United States, Israel and Russia, who placed candles by the victims' memorial wall. The Hungarian Holocaust claimed 550,000 to 600,000 victims. Most of them died in concentration camps.
Xinhua News Agency

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ESTONIAN PM: HOLOCAUST MUST NEVER BE FORGOTTEN

27/1/2007- Nazi Germany’s Holocaust was a "monstrous act" and the crimes of the murderous regime must never be forgotten, Estonian Prime Minister Andrus Ansip said Saturday to mark international Holocaust Day. "The mass killing of Jews by the Nazi regime during the Second World War was a monstrous act, which cannot be erased from humanity’s collective memory," Ansip said in a statement to mark the annual International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust. "We bow our heads in honour of its innocent victims," Ansip said. "The understanding that no crime against humanity should ever be forgotten is self-evident to all of us." The United Nations decided in 2005 to hold an annual memorial day for the six million Jewish victims and others killed by Nazis in Germany and occupied Europe during World War II. It chose January 27 because it was the date of the liberation in 1945 of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp in Poland. Estonia was alternately occupied by the Nazis and the Soviet Union during WWII. The Nazis, who invaded in 1941, sent up to 10,000 Jews from other countries to camps set up in Estonia, most of whom died in the Baltic state. Some Estonians saw the Nazis as the lesser of two evils, after Hitler’s forces drove out Soviet troops who had occupied the country in 1940 and had deported thousands of Estonians to their deaths. Last year, in a statement to mark the first international Holocaust memorial day, the Estonian government said it was "regrettable" that some Estonians collaborated with the Nazi occupiers in perpetrating crimes against humanity. It said there was "no justification whatsoever" for Estonians who joined the Nazi regime’s police forces or worked as prison guards.

The UN General Assembly unanimously condemned denial of the Holocaust Friday, in a move diplomats said was aimed at Iran for branding the mass murder of Jews a lie. In the resolution proposed by the United States and co-sponsored by more than 100 countries, the 192-member Assembly General "urges all member states unreservedly to reject any denial of the Holocaust as a historical event, either in full or in part, or any activities to this end." "Ignoring the historical fact of these terrible events increase the risk they will be repeated," it added. Diplomats said the resolution was inspired by Iran, whose President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has called the systematic murder of six million Jews a "myth." Iran drew international condemnation in December for staging a two-day conference gathering Holocaust deniers from around the world.
EJP

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BUCHENWALD MOBILIZES AGAINST HOLOCAUST DENIERS (Germany)

Gruesome Holocaust photos are often used as a sort of pedagogical shock therapy. But they are frequently poorly documented, providing ammunition to historical revisionists. Now, though, the Buchenwald Memorial is doing something about it.

31/1/2007- The ceremonies devoted to the memory of the Holocaust went on all weekend. Across Europe, victims of Nazi violence gathered on Saturday to remember mass murder visited on the continent by the Third Reich. And on Monday, the UN in Geneva and the German Bundestag likewise commemorated the slaughter. But what is the best way to remember the victims 62 years after the liberation of Auschwitz? The Buchenwald concentration camp memorial this week came up with a unique answer of their own: It is making some 600 images of the former concentration camp available on the Internet. The research project, funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG), is more than just an important supplement to the rituals of remembrance. Rather, the project -- called in full "The Cataloguing and Digital Registration of Historical Photographs and Their Publication as an Online Catalogue" -- represents the first collection of Holocaust images whose origins are clearly documented. Researchers meticulously checked the source of each and every picture.  The collection marks a new way of handling photographic documents of Nazi crimes. Until now, the need to have an immediate pedagogical effect was the first concern of many memorials and media. Because achieving the maximum effect was the priority, efforts to determine the origins of the images were often slipshod.

"An invitation to revisionists"
"A picture would be attributed to Buchenwald one time, to Dachau another time, and then to Nordhausen," Volkhard Knigge, the director of the Buchenwald Memorial, says. Instead of educating people, "pedagogical tattle and moral vapidity" characterized the treatment of the images, Knigge says. Such inconsistency in how images of Nazi crimes are used has made the work of revisionists and Holocaust deniers that much easier, say historians. Images are scattered across the globe and the photographers are unknown or dead. The photos are often only scantily labelled and wrong attributions are frequently taken at face value. This laxity is "an open invitation to revisionists and Holocaust deniers," Knigge warns. Such people, he says, use even the most minor inconsistencies in the documentation of Nazi crimes to deny that the crimes occurred in the first place. And they have become adept at cloaking those denials in the rhetoric of science. For example, Holocaust deniers took chemical probes of the ruins in Auschwitz-Birkenau in order to "prove" that the poison gas Zyklon B had never been used there.

The "Wehrmacht" Exhibition -- a warning
The dangers posed by inaccurate sourcing of photos have been known for years. Six years ago, an exhibition on the German army in World War II called "The Crimes of the Wehrmacht" had to be completely reworked after historians discovered serious errors in the captions of several images. Even worse, the mistakes allowed those who continue to believe the incorruptibility of German soldiers at the front to question the veracity of the entire exhibition. The commission that was called into investigate the lineage of the images often found the same picture in five separate archives, labelled and attributed differently each time -- incongruencies the organizers had failed to investigate further. In some cases, they attributed crimes committed by the Soviet secret police (NKWD) to German soldiers -- a grave mistake. In their report, the commission called for "careful use of the documents passed down, especially photographs." It was a warning not just to the organizers of that particular exhibition, but to museums and memorials in general.

Images of everyday life in the camps
Buchenwald Memorial's new collection of accurately sourced photos doesn't just show the well-known concentration camp motifs: piles of corpses or half-starved prisoners. These icons of horror are supplemented with comparatively unspectacular pictures of construction sites, head shots of detainees or aerial photos of the camp, in which some 50,000 people died. An effort was made to reconstruct who took each specific picture, says Holm Kirsten, who supervised the project. Was it a picture taken for the SS to present the camp as just another prison? Did US troops take the picture in order to make Germans face up to the horrific crimes of their compatriots? Or was it perhaps even a snapshot secretly taken by a detainee who wanted to gather evidence incriminating his torturers? During their research, the scientists also encountered some forgeries. East German historians, for example, were even laxer in their approach to historical accuracy than their West German counterparts. The antifascist custodians of the Buchenwald site found the piles of corpses US troops had photographed during the camp's liberation too small for illustrating the crimes committed there -- especially since pictures of even larger piles had been taken in Auschwitz. And so they just glued the images of two corpse piles together in order to intensify the horror. Today's scientists have reason to hope that by exposing such manipulations and inconsistencies, the strength of the evidence provided by the remaining photographs will be further increased. They hope, in short, to make the work of Holocaust deniers that much more difficult.
Spiegel Online

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GERMANY JOINS THE WORLD IN REMEMBERING HOLOCAUST VICTIMS

Ceremonies marking Holocaust Memorial Day got underway across Germany on Saturday, the 62nd anniversary of the liberation of the infamous Nazi Auschwitz death camp.

27/1/2007- In Berlin, the Greens party laid a wreath at the Pulitzbrücke memorial, with party leader Claudi Roth saying, "we are responsible for battling right-wing extremism, anti-Semitic and anti-foreigner attitudes." Pulitzbrücke was the former railway station used during World War II for the deportation of Berlin's Jews to concentration camps. Chancellor Angela Merkel urged "all courageous democrats" to fight the rise of the far-right and anti-Semitism in modern Germany as the country remembered the victims of the Holocaust. A few supporters of the extremist National Democratic Party (NPD) demonstrated outside a meeting of Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats in Frankfurt an der Oder on the Polish border where the chancellor was speaking. "The NPD must be fought by all courageous democrats, and I thank all those who commit themselves to this," Merkel told delegates inside. The NPD demonstrators were met by a larger number of counter-protesters. Among other Holocaust memorial activities set to take place around Germany, the government of the state of Saxony Anhalt was holding a ceremony in Salzwedel. The main ceremony in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania was set for the town of Malchow. The prime minister of Brandenburg state, Matthias Platzeck of Germany's Social Democratic Party (SPD), is to attend a ceremony at the Sachsenhausen Memorial Site near Oranienburg. Holocaust Memorial Day will also feature Saturday afternoon in soccer league announcements and in reports by club magazines.

Never Forget
Meanwhile in Brussels, the president of the European parliament, Hans-Gert Pöttering, said, "We must never forget this abominable and tremendously painful side of this continent's history. 'The crimes committed by the Nazis must be remembered by future generations as a warning against a genocide which should never be repeated," he said. Pöttering, the newly-elected parliamentary president, added: "On this day, we remember the millions of victims of the Holocaust, the murder of six million Jews as well as Roma, Poles, Russians and people of other nationalities.

Continuing the fight against intolerance
"The Holocaust Memorial Day is a day on which we most sharply condemn intolerance and animosity towards other religions and races and every form of anti-Semitism," he said. The highest measure of political conduct for the European Union is the respect of every person's dignity and human rights throughout the world, Pöttering added.

German Jews start campaign
Germany's Jewish community launched a campaign of full-page newspaper advertisements Saturday to stress the importance of the Holocaust Memorial Day and to attack efforts by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to deny it. The advertisements by the Central Council of German Jews warned against the threat emanating from Ahmadinejad, who has stirred controversy with remarks referring to the Holocaust as a "legend." Ahmadinejad had "many times denied the systematic disfranchisement, deportation and factory-scale annihilation of millions of European Jews," the advertisement said. It said that the nuclear program pursued by Ahmadinejad and his regime of mullahs posed a "threat not only to the Middle East but the entire world" and demanded that the German government should make no compromises with Iran regarding the issue of atomic weapons. Holocaust Memorial Day was established in 1996 by former German President Roman Herzog as a day of remembrance for the victims of National Socialism. The date coincides with the liberation of the biggest concentration camp in Auschwitz-Birkenau on January 27, 1945.
Deutsche Welle

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NEO NAZI PROTEST(Germany)

27/1/2007- German Chancellor Angela Merkel has vowed to take tough action against Neo Nazis after a group demonstrated outside a political event she was attending to remember those who were killed during the Holocaust. During the event in Frankfurt-Oder to mark International Holocaust Memorial Day, around 150 Neo Nazis took part in the protest. The group was pelted with snow balls as they marched and the protest was countered by around 700 anti-far-right demonstrators. The number of extreme right-wing crimes rose by about 20 per cent in Germany in the first eight months of last year. Today marks the day in 1945 when the Soviet Red Army liberated the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland. Events are taking place to remember the six million Jews and other victims who were killed by the Nazi regime.
Sky News

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