Sirens wail in Israel as thousands commemorate Holocaust in Auschwitz

Sirens wailed in Israel and thousands marched at the largest Nazi death camp in Europe Thursday, in remembrance of the 6 million Jews killed in the Holocaust.

Some 10,000 Jewish youths, many waving or wrapped in white-blue Israeli flags, walked the three kilometres from the main concentration camp Auschwitz toward the Birkenau death camp in southern Poland.

Passing through the site's notorious "Arbeit macht frei" gate, the youths were accompanied by survivors, some dressed in striped, numbered camp uniforms.

Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, at a ceremony after the march, levied harsh criticism at the international community at the time of the Holocaust.

"Where was the world? Where were the enlightened Western nations?" she asked.

She criticized Britain for having blocked attempts by Jews to flee to Palestine, then under British Mandatory control, while it and the allied forces failed to bomb the railways that transported hundreds of thousands to their deaths.

"There is no way to go around it, the entire world deserted the Jews. Today I can say with pride that we are no longer at the mercy of the world," she said. 

"I hereby vow on behalf of the Israeli government, never again will the lives of Jews be risked while the world stands idly by."

Shaked warned of persistent modern anti-Semitism, while slamming the suspended British Labour Party parliament member Naz Shah for her suggestion that Israel should be relocated to the United States. 

"In the past there were calls in Europe, 'Jews go to Palestine!' Today, they are calling in Europe, 'Jews, get away from Palestine!'" she said. 

Polish Holocaust survivor Edward Mosberg, who lost 16 members of his family, seemed visibly agitated when he said: "We have no right to forgive. Only the dead can forgive."

Thirteen at the time, he said he could still remember his mother, "who was murdered at the crematorium number five right here."

In Birkenau alone, at least 1.1 million Jews were slaughtered during World War II. Auschwitz-Birkenau was the biggest Nazi German concentration and extermination camp and has become a symbol for the Holocaust. 

The annual March of the Living symbolizes the triumph of younger surviving generations over the Nazi attempt to annihilate the Jewish race.

In Israel, sirens wailed for two minutes to remember the victims.

The country came to a complete standstill. Traffic stopped in the middle of roads in cities and on highways, as drivers and passengers got out, bowing their heads in silent observance.

In addition to a state wreath-laying service at Jerusalem's Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Centre attended by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, ceremonies were also conducted at schools, colleges and universities throughout the country.

Although the United Nations has designated January 27 as international Holocaust Remembrance Day, Israel traditionally marks it on the 27th day of the Jewish month of Nissan, one week before Independence Day, to symbolize the rise of the state of Israel from the ashes of the Holocaust.

Last update: Thu, 05/05/2016 - 20:16

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