With coronavirus raging around the world, this year's International Holocaust Remembrance Day commemorations were taking place largely online.
The Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum, which stands on the grounds of the former Nazi death camp in Poland, was this year focusing its annual memorial on the fate of the children who passed through that infamous gate branded with the words "Abreit Macht Frei" (work sets you free).
Speakers at the memorial included Polish President Andrzej Duda, Deputy Israeli Ambassador to Poland Tal Ben-Ari Yaalon and Russian Ambassador to Poland Sergey Andreyev.
The international day of remembrance, January 27, was chosen as it is the anniversary of the liberation of the death camp by the Red Army in 1945.
More than 1.1 million people perished in the camp between 1940 and 1945. Almost all of them were Jewish prisoners, but another 100,000 non-Jewish inmates, including Polish nationals, Roma and Soviet prisoners of war, were murdered there too.
Other institutions around the world, including Yad Vashem in Israel and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C., also had online events planned.
The presidents of Israel, Germany and Poland were among those delivering remarks of remembrance and warning.
In all, some 6 million European Jews and millions of other people were killed by Nazi Germany and their collaborators.
In 2005, the United Nations designated Jan. 27 as International Holocaust Remembrance Day, an acknowledgment of Auschwitz’s iconic status.
Israel, which today counts 197,000 Holocaust survivors, officially marks its Holocaust remembrance day in the spring.
But events were also being held Wednesday by survivors’ organizations and remembrance groups across the country, many of them held virtually or without members of the public in attendance.
Auschwitz Museum has been closed to visitors for 161 days due to the pandemic. In 2019 it was visited by around 2.3 million people.
In 2020 that number dropped to around 502,000. The museum's director, Piotr Cywinski, acknowledged virtual events and education programs were not as effective in passing on the lessons of the Holocaust and World War Two."
Nothing will replace witnessing the place in its authentic state, because this isn't just about seeing and listening. This is about looking around, in your own steps, touching, experiencing different perspectives, understanding," Cywinski told Reuters.