Europe gathers 70 years after Nazi camps liberated
European leaders on Sunday remembered the atrocities of concentration camps run by the Nazis and their allies during the Second World War with ceremonies in Germany, Croatia and France.
At the site of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Germany the president of the World Jewish Congress, Ronald Lauder, recalled the shock of the first images to emerge from the camp when it was liberated 70 years ago.
“We saw the bulldozers pushing naked bodies into open pits. The walking skeletons. The unbelievable sadness and loss,” he said at a ceremony attended by around 70 survivors.
The somber and emotional scenes were mirrored at Jasenovac in Croatia, where families, officials and diplomats gathered to remember the tens of thousands of victims, mostly Serbs and Jews, who were killed in one of the war’s most brutal concentration camps.
In France, President Francois Hollande warned that the continued existence of racism and anti- Semitism meant “the worst could yet return,” as he led commemorations at Struthof in the Alsace region, site of the only Nazi camp on French soil.
More than 50,000 deportees from across Europe lost their lives at the Bergen-Belsen camp in western Germany between 1941 and 1945, including the young Jewish diarist Anne Frank, in addition to 20,000 prisoners of war.
German President Joachim Gauck paid tribute to UK soldiers who freed the camp and restored “humanity” to the country.
The Horrors of Jasenovac
In Croatia, the commemorations marked the 70th anniversary of an attempted escape by around 600 inmates from the Jasenovac death camp, known as “Croatia’s Auschwitz.”
The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum estimates that 100,000 people — mainly Serbs, Jews, Roma and anti-fascist Croatians — were killed there. Serbia claims the figure could be as high as 700,000.
Many had their throats cut with specially designed knives. Others were burned alive in furnaces.
As anti-Nazi partisans approached shortly after the escape attempt, the prison guards abandoned the camp, killing remaining inmates and burning down the buildings and torture chambers as they left.
Croatia has sought to distance itself from the pro-Nazi Ustasha regime which set up the camp in 1941 and focus on the country’s anti-Nazi partisans.
France marked the National Day of Deportation on Sunday, recalling the role the collaborationist French regime played in assisting the Nazi genocide.
People attend a memorial ceremony for the tens of thousands of victims who were killed at the Jasenovac camp, in Jasenovac on Sunday, April 26.