WASHINGTON —Leaders of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission) today called on governments to mark the 65th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz by increasing efforts to combat anti-Semitism and intolerance.
“Mob attacks, murders and acts of intimidation are modern reminders that the shadow of anti-Semitism, racism and intolerance continues to darken life for people in too many places,” said Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), who traveled to Auschwitz in 2004. “We are deeply concerned about the rise of extremism in several OSCE countries. Governments should take pause on this anniversary, intensify their efforts to reverse this trend and work to end anti-Semitism, racism, and ethnic discrimination.”
The Helsinki Commission has consistently supported the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s anti-Semitism program.
“Teaching about the Holocaust is essential to combating modern anti-Semitism,” said Co-Chairman Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL). “Learning the important lessons from the atrocities of Auschwitz takes more than schools and teachers. It takes a professional press. I regret that some mainstream news agencies reporting about Auschwitz called it a ‘Polish concentration camp.’ It is especially important for young generations just learning this history that it be correctly described as a Nazi German concentration camp in occupied Poland.”
“Sixty-five years after the Holocaust there are fewer and fewer survivors to tell of the harrowing experience of the Nazi death camps,” said Ranking Minority Commissioner Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS). “I strongly support the preservation of the Auschwitz Memorial and Museum to preserve the memory of the more than one million people who were killed there and so future generations may learn about this horrific part of human history and never forget.”
Auschwitz was the most notorious of the six extermination camps built by the Nazis during the war. Many European countries set aside January 27 each year as Holocaust Memorial Day. It was on that day in 1945 that the Soviet Army liberated the Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz, including Birkenau and other related camps near the Polish city of Oswiecim. An estimated 6 million Jews, more than 60 percent of Europe’s pre-World War II Jewish population, were murdered by the Nazis and their collaborators at Auschwitz and elsewhere during the Holocaust.
In addition, hundreds of thousands of Polish, Romani and other civilians, including disabled persons, homosexuals, political, intellectual, labor, and religious leaders, as well as Soviet and other prisoners of war, perished at Auschwitz and elsewhere in Europe.