Vladimir Putin today used Holocaust Remembrance Day to claim ‘neo-Nazis’ were operating in Ukraine, as he continues his attempt to justify his barbaric war in Ukraine.
The Russian President, whose horrific war continues to shatter peace in Europe, repeated his claim on the day when the world remembers the unimaginable horrors that killed 6 million Jews across German-occupied Europe.
Survivors of Auschwitz today gathered to commemorate the 78th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi Germany death camp, with Putin continuing to be unwelcome at the memorial site.
As the Kremlin continued to try and justify its abhorrent war, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky marked the anniversary of the horrors by warning that ‘indifference and hatred can kill’.
Russian President Vladimir Putin meeting with Chief Rabbi of Russia Berl Lazar (right) and head of the Federation of Jewish Communities Alexander Boroda (centre) in Moscow, Russia, 26 January 2023
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky marked solemn the event with a post on his official Telegram feed and Instagram page that alluded to his own country’s situation
Footage posted on his Instagram page showed Mr Zelensky laying a red ornament at a Holocaust memorial site in Ukraine.
Second gentleman of US Douglas Emhoff attends the 78th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp in Oswiecim, Poland, January 27, 2023
The Russian President said: ‘Forgetting the lessons of history leads to the repetition of terrible tragedies.
‘This is evidenced by the crimes against civilians, ethnic cleansing and punitive actions organized by neo-Nazis in Ukraine. It is against that evil that our soldiers are bravely fighting.’
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky marked the solemn event with a post on his official Telegram feed and Instagram page that alluded to his own country’s situation.
‘We know and remember that indifference kills along with hatred,’ he said.
‘Indifference and hatred are always capable of creating evil together only. That is why it is so important that everyone who values life should show determination when it comes to saving those whom hatred seeks to destroy.’
Footage posted on his Instagram page showed Mr Zelensky laying a red ornament at a Holocaust memorial site in Ukraine.
Mr Zelensky laid a red ornament at a Holocaust memorial site in Ukraine
Putin’s horrific war continues to shatter peace in Europe. Pictured: A Ukrainian tank fires toward Russian position near the town of Bakhmut, Donetsk region on January 26, 2023
Ukrainian soldiers are seen at their mortar position on the Donbass frontline, during Russia and Ukraine war in Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine on January 26, 2023
The Kremlin has alleged that Ukraine’s treatment of Russian speakers in the country is comparable with the actions of Nazi Germany.
Putin originally claimed that he was launching what he called a ‘special military operation’ in Ukraine because he wanted to ‘de-Nazify’ it – a claim that has been continually used as a justification.
The Ukrainian government, the country’s Jewish population, and world leaders have all denounced the claims.
The 78th anniversary marking the liberation of Aushwitz and the horrors of the Second World War comes as a senior EU official warned that Putin’s conflict would be taken to a ‘different stage’ that would raise the terrifying spectre of global conflict.
Having already shattered peace in Europe, Putin has threatened to escalate his brutal war beyond Ukraine’s borders.
Western leaders earlier this week agreed to send sophisticated tanks into Ukraine that would significantly increase the capabilities of Kyiv’s forces., infuriating the Kremlin.
Stefano Sannino, secretary general of the European Union’s European External Action Service, said Vladimir Putin will increase indiscriminate attacks on civilians and non-military targets and retaliate against the West.
Speaking at a news conference in Tokyo as part of an Asia-Pacific tour, he said Putin had ‘moved from a concept of special operation to a concept now of a war against NATO and the West’.
The prospect of global conflict provides a stark comparison on the day when the world looks back at the horrors of the Second World War.
Survivors and the management of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum commemorate the victims by laying wreaths and lighting candles at the Wall of Death, Oswiecim, Poland, January 27, 2023
Holocaust survivor Eva Umlauf speaks during a ceremony of the 78th anniversary of liberation of Nazi German Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp in Oswiecim, Poland January 27, 2023
Visitors enter in a train car, at the “Track 21” memorial, the site where most of the deportation trains from Italy were boarded during the Holocaust, at the train station in Milan, Italy, Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2023
Musician Carmelo Leotta plays an improvisational piece on a contrabass at the Gleis 17 memorial in commemoration on Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 27, 2023 in Berlin, Germany
Flowers left by participants lie on the railway tracks at the Gleis 17 memorial during a small commemoration gathering on Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 27, 2023 in Berlin, Germany
Across Europe, people marked Holocaust Remembrance Day with a series of ceremonies, laying wreaths, candles and flowers at former Nazi-occupied sites – now used to remember victims.
In Berlin, Germany, ceremonies took place at the Gleis 17 (Platform 17) memorial where the Nazis deported thousands by rail to the Auschwitz and Theresienstadt concentration camps during the Second World War.
A cellist played an improvisational piece on the train tracks as others laid white flowers from the platform.
Under the occupation of German forces during the Second World War, Auschwitz became a place of systematic murder of Jews, Poles, Soviet prisoners of war, Roma and others targeted for elimination by Adolf Hitler and his henchmen.
In all, some 1.1 million people were killed at the vast complex before it was liberated by Soviet troops on January 27, 1945.
Holocaust survivors and representatives gathered at the former concentration and extermination camp located in the town of Oswiecim in southern Poland.
Survivors and representatives laid wreaths and lit candles at the Wall of Death at the former Auschwitz camp today during the anniversary. Many of them wore hats and scarves part of the blue and white uniform that Nazis forced them to wear in the concentration camp.
Husband of Vice President Kamala Harris, Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff represented the US alongside the ambassador to Poland. Mr Emhoff lit a candle to place at the former concentration camp.
The former concentration camp site, with its barracks and barbed wire and the ruins of gas chambers, now stands as one of the world’s most recognised symbols of evil and an admonition of ‘Never Again’ that has been a site of pilgrimage for millions.
Yet it lies only 300 kilometres (185 miles) from Ukraine, where Russian aggression is creating unthinkable death and destruction – a conflict on the minds of many of those paying tribute to the victims of eight decades ago.
Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff, left, visits the former Nazi German concentration and extermination camp during ceremonies marking the 78th anniversary of the liberation of the camp, Oswiecim, Poland, January 27, 2023
Husband of US Vice President Kamala Harris, Douglas Emhoff (centre), with the US Ambassador to Poland Mark Brzezinski (left) at the Auschwitz-Birkenau Nazi German concentration and extermination camp, Oswiecim, Poland, 27 January 2023
US Ambassador in Poland Mark Brzezinski (right) and the Second Gentleman of the United States Douglas Emhoff (left) hold candles during the commemorations on International Holocaust Remembrance Day at the Memorial and Museum in Auschwitz, January 27, 2023
Russian President Vladimir Putin attended observances marking the 60th anniversary of the camp’s liberation in 2005, but has been told he is welcome at the memorial site.
This year, no Russian official at all was invited due to Russia’s attack on Ukraine, according to the Auschwitz-Birkenau state museum.
‘Russia will need an extremely long time and very deep self-examination after this conflict in order to return to gatherings of the civilised world,’ said Piotr Sawicki, a spokesman for the museum at the site of the former camp.
Survivors of the Holocaust also met yesterday in Oswiecim, Poland to commemorate the anniversary.
Bogdan Bartnikowski, a Pole who was 12 years old when he was transported to Auschwitz, said the first images he saw on television last February of refugees fleeing after Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine triggered traumatic memories.
He was stunned seeing a little girl in a large crowd of refugees holding her mother with one hand and grasping a teddy bear in the other.
‘It was literally a blow to the head for me because I suddenly saw, after almost 80 years, what I had seen in a freight car when I was being transported to Auschwitz. A little girl was sitting next to me, hugging a doll to her chest,’ Mr Bartnikowski, now 91, said.
Mr Bartnikowski was among several survivors of Auschwitz who spoke about their experiences to journalists on the eve of Friday’s commemorations.
People walk next to the ”Arbeit Macht Frei’ (Work Sets You Free) gate at the former Nazi German concentration camp Auschwitz, Oswiecim, Poland, Thursday, January 26, 2023
Early morning on Holocaust Remembrance Day at the former Auschwitz concentration camp site in Oswiecim, Poland, January 27, 2023
The train tracks leading to Auschwitz concentration camp where 1.1 million people were killed, Oswiecim, Poland, January 26, 2023
The former Nazi German concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz-Birkenau in Oswiecim, Poland, Thursday, January 26, 2023
One of the others, Stefania Wernik, who was born at Auschwitz in November 1944, less than three months before its liberation, spoke of Auschwitz being a ‘hell on earth’.
She said when she was born she was so tiny that the Nazis tattooed her number – 89136 – on her thigh.
Ms Wernik was washed in cold water, wrapped in rags and subjected to medical experiments.
And yet her mother had abundant milk, and they both survived.
After the war, her mother returned home and reunited with her husband, and ‘the whole village came to look at us and said it’s a miracle’.
Ms Wernik read out an appeal to the next generations to be vigilant about insidious ideologies.
‘No more fascism, which brings death, genocide, crimes, slaughter and loss of human dignity,’ she said.
The Germans established Auschwitz in 1940 for Polish prisoners; later they expanded the complex, building death chambers and crematoria where Jews from across Europe were brought by train to be murdered.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said ‘the suffering of six million innocently murdered Jews remains unforgotten – as does the suffering of the survivors’.
Holocaust survivor Rozette Kats speaks during a special session of the Bundestag to commemorate victims of the Nazis during Holocaust Remembrance Day, Berlin, Germany January 27, 2023
German representatives attend a memorial ceremony commemorating the victims of the Holocaust on the International Holocaust Remembrance Day, at the lower house of the parliament or Bundestag, in Berlin, Germany, January 27, 2023
Rozette Kats, a survivor of the Holocaust, speaks at the hour of remembrance at the Bundestag, Berlin, Germany, January 27, 2023
‘We recall our historic responsibility on Holocaust Memorial Day so that our Never Again endures in future,’ he wrote on Twitter.
The German parliament was holding a memorial event focused this year on those who were persecuted for their sexual orientation.
Thousands of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transsexual people were incarcerated and killed by the Nazis.
Their fate was only publicly recognised decades after the end of the Second World War.
Elsewhere in the world on Friday events were planned to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day, an annual commemoration established by a United Nations resolution in 2005.
About six million European Jews were killed in the Holocaust and millions more were killed in the global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945.