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Auschwitz-Birkenau
Photo: AP
1.5 million visit Auschwitz memorial in 2014
Ahead of 70th anniversary of its liberation, former Nazi death camp sees surge in annual visitors, mostly from Poland, UK, US and Germany.

Officials say a record number of more than 1.5 million people from around the world visited the grounds of the former Nazi German death camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau in 2014.

 

 

The Auschwitz museum said Sunday on its website most visitors came from within Poland, with large numbers of tourists also coming from Britain, the US, Italy and Germany. The website didn't say what the previous record was.

 

Between 1940 and 1945, about 1.1 million people, mainly Jews but also Poles, Roma and other nationals, were killed in gas chambers or died from forced labor, hunger and disease in the camp operated by Nazi Germans.

 

On January 27, ceremonies attended by survivors will mark the 70th anniversary of its liberation by the Soviet army.

  

Photo: AP
Photo: AP

 

More than 100 Auschwitz survivors from at least 17 countries will travel to Poland to participate in event, marked on the occasion of International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

 

The official event will be organized by the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum and the International Auschwitz Council. The World Jewish Congress and the USC Shoah Foundation – The Institute for Visual History and Education will be among the organizations supporting this commemorative event.

Photo: EPA
Photo: EPA

 

This month's 70th anniversary is a reminder, at a time when anti-Semitism is on the rise again, of what happens when the world stays silent about persecution, the president of the World Jewish Congress said.

 

Ronald S. Lauder told Reuters in an interview anti-Semitism had reached levels not seen since World War II, driven by Islamist extremists using hatred of Jews as a way to attack Israel, and by far-right nationalists in Europe.

 

"This anniversary is crucial because it may be the last major one marked by survivors. We are truly honored that so many of them, despite their age, have agreed to make this trip," said Ronald S. Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress.

 

"Few moments in the drama that was World War II are more etched in our collective memory then the day Red Army troops came upon, perhaps, the greatest evil of our time," he said.

 

"We have to say it clearly: It is the last big anniversary that we can commemorate with a significant group of survivors," said Dr. Piotr M.A. Cywiński, director of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum.

 

"Until now, it has been them who taught us how to look at the tragedy of the victims of the Third Reich and the total destruction of the world of European Jews. Their voices became the most important warning against the human capacity for extreme humiliation, contempt and genocide."

 

"On this special day we want to show the survivors and the whole world that we, the post-war generation, have matured to our own responsibility for remembrance," Marek Zając, secretary of the International Auschwitz Council, declared.

 

Reuters contributed to this report.

 

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