Police were also on alert after pro-Palestinian activists indicated that they would ignore a police order and go ahead with a rally planned to coincide with the Holocaust commemorations. Italy’s Jewish community has complained that such protests have become occasions for the memory of the Holocaust to be co-opted by anti-Israel forces and used against Jews.
In Bosnia-Herzegovina, Jews and Muslims from the country and from abroad gathered in Srebrenica to jointly observe Holocaust Remembrance Day, and to promote compassion and dialogue amid the Israel-Hamas war.
It was organized by the center preserving the memory of Europe’s only acknowledged genocide since the Holocaust — the massacre in 1995 of more than 8,000 Muslim Bosniaks in Srebrenica in Bosnia’s interethnic war.
The event underscored the message that the two communities share the experience of persecution and must stay united in their commitment to peace.
New York law professor Menachem Rosensaft told The Associated Press on the eve of his participation in the Srebrenica commemoration that this year’s observances were especially important. He said that’s because they come just months after the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas on Israel, which became the largest massacre of Jews since the Holocaust.
“We need to bring people together and find common ground,” said Rosensaft, the son of Holocaust survivors. “To make sure it doesn’t happen again, this has to become the conscience of the world.”
He said the international commemoration day, created by the United Nations in 2005, is important to ensure the world remembers the Holocaust long after the survivors and their forbears are gone.
Earlier in the week, the countries of the former Yugoslavia signed an agreement in Paris to jointly renovate Block 17 in the red-brick Auschwitz camp and install a permanent exhibition there in memory of around 20,000 people who were deported from their territories and brought to the block. Participating in the project will be Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia and Slovenia.
Preserving the camp, a notorious symbol of the horrors of the Holocaust, with its cruelly misleading “Arbeit Macht Frei” (“Work Makes One Free”) gate, requires constant effort by historians and experts, and substantial funds.
The Nazis, who occupied Poland from 1939-1945, at first used old Austrian military barracks at Auschwitz as a concentration and death camp for Poland’s resistance fighters. In 1942, the wooden barracks, gas chambers and crematoria of Birkenau were added for the extermination of Europe’s Jews, Roma and other nationals, as well as Russian prisoners of war.
Soviet Red Army troops liberated Auschwitz-Birkenau on Jan. 27, 1945, with about 7,000 prisoners there, children and those who were too weak to walk. The Germans had evacuated tens of thousands of other inmates on foot days earlier in what is now called the Death March, because many inmates died of exhaustion and cold in the sub-freezing temperatures.
Since 1979, the Auschwitz-Birkenau site has been on the UNESCO list of World Heritage.