Russia has organized a large-scale program of events on the occasion of the International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which coincides with liberation of the Auschwitz death camp by Soviet troops 70 years ago.
The Auschwitz-Birkenau Nazi death camps existed in 1940-1945 near the town of Oswiecim in Poland. About one and a half million people, mostly Jews, were exterminated in these camps. As the biggest and one of the most notorious camps, Auschwitz has become a symbol of the Holocaust. During World War II, the Nazi killed half of the world’s Jewish population, i.e. 6 million people.
On January 27, Russian President Vladimir Putin visited the Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center in Moscow, accompanied by Chief Rabbi of Russia Berl Lazar and president of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia Alexander Boroda.
“On this tragic day, we are paying a tribute to all those who were killed by the Nazi and their accomplices in death camps and ghettos, we are mourning the millions of victims of the bloodiest war in the history of the human race,” the Russian leader said.
“There cannot be a statute of limitations for such crimes. They can be neither forgiven nor forgotten. Any attempts to hush these events, to distort and rewrite history are unacceptable and immoral,” he emphasized.
In Russia, religious and public organizations are searching for mass graves of Holocaust victims and set up memorials there. “Yet paying our tribute to the past, we should look into the future”, Putin said. “Crimes like the Holocaust must not happen again. This is our common duty and, without exaggeration, the most important and relevant task for the entire global community.”
He emphasized that Russian people had made a huge contribution to the victory over Nazism and recalled that January 27 was another important date for Russians – the day when the siege of Leningrad was lifted.
Despite huge positive changes, there are still “man-hateful ideas wandering about” the world, Putin said, mentioning current developments in eastern Ukraine. Before the speech, Mr Putin visited an exhibition titled “Man and Catastrophe.” He was also shown the “No Man’s Land” documentary.
This year, the Memory Week is part of the program of events devoted to the 70th anniversary of the Victory in the Great Patriotic war. The day before, a requiem mass in commemoration of Auschwitz victims was organized at Poklonnaya Gora in Moscow. The Russian capital is also holding exhibitions, performances and dramatized excursions devoted to the history of the Holocaust. On the day of the 70th anniversary of the Auschwitz liberation, memorial prayers were read at all synagogues in Moscow.
Chair of the Federation Council Valentina Matvienko visited the memorial synagogue at Poklonnaya Gora to pay a tribute to the Holocaust victims. People have no right to forget about the Holocaust, about Khatyn in Belarus, about Baby Yar and the Leningrad siege, she emphasized. This is necessary to make sure that such things will never happen again.
Matvienko said she was worried about the latest developments in the world. Those who deny the fact of liberation of the Auschwitz prisoners by Soviet troops are guilty of a crime against their memory, she said. Such people condone the revival of Nazism, she added.
Similar events were organized in other cities of Russia. Ryazan saw a ceremonious opening of a historical exhibition of archive documents devoted to the Holocaust and titled “The bitter taste of Victory.” Its exhibits include photos, charts, historical facts and losses among civilians. The project was initiated and implemented by the National Museum of Israel and seeks to commemorate the victims of the Holocaust, as well as to express gratitude to Soviet soldiers for liberating the world of the Nazi.
The regional academic library of Saratov on January 27 organized a commemorative event titled “Not to be forgotten”, which was also devoted to the 70th anniversary of the Auschwitz liberation and the International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
At the Puppet Theater in Petrozavodsk, young actors from St Petersburg staged Shoah, a documentary performance about Nazi death camps. “Shoah” is translated from Hebrew as “catastrophe.” The word is used to describe the Nazi policy of consistent extermination of Jews. The play is based on eyewitness accounts, written documents and oral testimonies of people who survived the horrors of death camps.