AUSCHWITZ – The delegation of Knesset members visiting Poland for the International Holocaust Remembrance Day held a tour of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp Wednesday where they lay a bouquet of flowers at Barracks 27, also known as "the Jewish barracks" together with hundreds of European parliament members.
At the end of their tour the MKs said a Kaddish prayer and held a short memorial ceremony.
Hadash Chairman MK Mohammad Barakeh, whose decision to join the delegation has sparked an uproar in recent weeks had trouble concealing his shock upon visiting the extermination camp.
"I knew exactly where I was going," He said and added, "But being here, faced with the embodiment of human evil on the one hand, and the unperceivable misery of the victims on the other hand, things take on a different meaning. Everything is mixed into a human catastrophe."
Barakeh also commented on the piles of children's shoes displayed at the museum and said, "Any such shoe was once worn by a baby. Children are a nationality of their own, a nationality of innocence, and I cannot grasp how human beings could do such an atrocious thing."
MK Tamir at ceremony in Barrack 27 (Photo: Itzik Harari, Knesset)
For MK Orit Zuaretz (Kadima) the tour at Auschwitz was her first visit to the site. "A great discomfort accompanies me, especially at understanding that Europe's siding of Israel is still in question and conditioned on various factors. My distress grows stronger as I realize that we, Israelis today, are also faced with a looming threat which is just as great in size as the Holocaust."
MK and former minister Yuli Tamir (Labor) said during the tour, "The only thing that unites us as human beings and characterizes us all, are not achievements in science, art and technology but our ability to say 'no' at the face of anti-Semitism and anything that harms human dignity which could lead to a total loss of boundaries."
The main memorial ceremony will be held later on Wednesday at the camp and will attended by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Polish President Lech Kaczynski as well as European Parliament President Jerzy Buzek and the MKs.
In addition, a candle march marking the liberation of Auschwitz will be conducted with the participation of the camp's survivors and some of its liberators.
Amnon Meranda contributed to this report