Our passivity is the greatest source of victims. 76th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.
Children in the camp constituted the theme of the 76th anniversary of the liberation of the German Nazi concentration and extermination camp. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, on January 27 the events commemorating the anniversary were exceptionally held not at the Memorial Site, but online.
The online commemoration event was hosted by Marek Zając, a journalist and the Chairman of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation.
The main part of the ceremony was inaugurated by the speeches of two Auschwitz Survivors – Zdzisława Włodarczyk and Anita Lasker-Wallfisch.
Zdzisława Włodarczyk was born on August 21, 1933. After the outbreak of the Warsaw Uprising on August 1st 1944 her family was arrested by the Germans and deported to Auschwitz in one of the first transports to Warsaw on August 8.
‘Nights were the hardest... children were crying, calling their moms while sleeping... Whining and moaning, but then, they became silent, as they knew that no one would come to caress their head... no one would touch or hug... they were dying alone. Why?’, she said.
‘Children were born in the camp, but they were not given the right to live as they were killed immediately. They had no names and they didn't even have their numbers. How many of these children perished? Why? Were we the enemies of the Third Reich?’, former prisoner emphasized.
‘I wish there were no more wars, such wars. Now the whole world is affected by the coronavirus epidemic. Isn't it a war too? People are far away from one another, children can't play together, they become nervous and will suffer trauma, too. And there is suffering. And people are dying alone. Why? The world was not careful enough’, Zdzisława Włodarczyk summarized her speech.
Anita Lasker-Wallfisch was born in 1925 in Wrocław (then Germany). She was arrested in September 1942 at the Wrocław railway station under the pretext of heading towards France using forged documents. She was incarcerated at Auschwitz on November 29, 1943. She received the number 69388. She become a member of the female camp orchestra, where she played the cello. In the second half of the year 1944, she was transferred to the Bergen-Belsen camp, where she lived to see the end of the war.
‘I arrived at these gates in late 1943 without the slightest illusions. One knew what was happening here. I was eighteen years old and expected to be turned into smoke. That I'm still alive is thanks to the absurd turns that life can take. Believe it or not, there was music in this inferno and because I could play the cello I'm still here to tell the tale,’ she said.
‘I appeal to you, the people so many generations after the event, do not let us down, do not allow the memory to be distorted and poisoned by the ugly resurgence of xenophobia and antisemitism,’ she added
‘Conquer our fear of what we don't know. Build bridges, talk to each other, celebrate your differences because in reality, we have more in common than separates us. Today, we are facing a new challenge, a challenge with no respect for race, colour or religion and invisible enemy. A virus without a price tag on human lives. Today let us honour the people who were senselessly murdered here. And never, never ever forget,’ Anita Lasker Wallfisch emphasized.
President of the Republic of Poland Andrzej Duda extended his honorary patronage over the events commemorating the anniversary. In his address he emphasized that thanks to modern technology we are today able to honour the memory of the victims.
‘However, this year's commemoration makes us realize in a very powerful way the significance of the material evidence of the genocide as well as its horrendous reality. The crimes committed in German concentration and extermination camps were real, real people were suffering an unimaginable but genuine pain and they were really dying. They were really murdered. The suffering and the death of the Victims were, are and will remain real,’ Andrzej Duda said.
‘It is our obligation to preserve all material evidence, memorabilia and signs of Their existence, Their life and martyrdom to make sure that humanity never forgets about Them,’ the President added.
‘The authorities of the Republic of Poland are carrying out their mission of preserving the evidence of that biggest crime in human history. When the threat of the deadly disease has passed, we will once again stand in Auschwitz-Birkenau on this soil soaked with the blood of over 1 million Victims. What one can see here is an answer to oblivion, to the illusion of non-reality, to the lie of denial,’ Andrzej Duda emphasized.
Then the representatives of Israel and the Russian Federation took the floor.
‘Many things have changed in the years that have passed, but hatred and antisemitism are still an issue we have to face today. Antisemitism isn't just a Jewish problem. It is everyone's responsibility to fight it. Hatred, xenophobia and intolerance towards others are things that tend to spread, poisoning societies. And as we remember today, might lead to deadly results,’ said Chargé d'affaires Tal Ben-Ari Yaalon.
‘We must do everything in our power to make sure such horrors won't happen again... to anyone. Regardless of gender, religion, race, colour or sexual preferences. It is up to us,’ she added.
‘6 million Jews were victims of the Nazism, with 40 percent of them being the citizens of former Soviet Union, so we do know what the pain of the Holocaust consists in. The same atrocities awaited other so-called inferior nations: Russians, Belarusians, Ukrainians, Poles, Gypsies. These plans were thwarted as a result of the victory of the anti-Nazi coalition in 1945,’ said Ambassador Sergey Andreev.
‘The memory of World War II and its victims should remain the most powerful factor of rejecting all over the world the idea of the war itself. Never again. Let the peaceful sky dominate all of us forever,’ he added.
Dr. Piotr M. A. Cywiński,Director of the Auschwitz Museum, was the last speaker during the commemoration event.
‘As it is impossible to bring the victims back to life, a child-survivor would not have their childhood restored either. The childhood in the frantic world of the adults. While looking into the eyes of the youngest victims of Auschwitz, one cannot but ask about ourselves, the post-war generation. As today the children are also murdered, they are sold, abused as slaves, hungry and starved, abandoned and lonely,’ he said.
‘Never before were the people as powerful and skilful as today. Whereas we all care more about our own convenience in our world than for creating a better world for the children and the entire future,’ he added.
‘Today, where can the future be seen better than in our today’s passivity, inability to react, to give a helping hand? We delude ourselves that wars, disasters or pandemics change the world. But our passivity is the greatest source of victims. And among them, the weakest, the most trustful and innocent – are always the children’, Piotr Cywiński emphasized.
After official presentations, prayers were said by rabbi Michael Schudrich, bishop Roman Pindel from the Roman Catholic Church, bishop Atanazy from the Polish Autocephalous Orthodox Church as well as bishop Adrian Korczago from the Evangelical-Augsburg Church.
The second part of commemorative events was devoted to a panel discussion “Influence of the war and Holocaust on shaping children’s identity”. Among its participants there were Lea Balint, Holocaust Survivor, Melissa Hacker, President of Kindertransport Association as well as Janina Rekłajtis, Auschwitz Survivor.
On the day of the anniversary - as a symbol of remembrance and solidarity with the Victims - the Museum Director Piotr M. A. Cywiński laid a wreath at the Death Wall in Auschwitz I and a placed a candle at the monument in Birkenau.
It is estimated that at least 232 thousand children were deported to Auschwitz, including ca. 216 thousand of Jewish origin, 11 thousand Roma, ca. 3 thousand Poles, over 1 thousand Belarusians and several hundred Russians, Ukrainians and other. In total, ca. 23 thousand children and teenagers were registered in the camp, with slightly over 700 of them liberated in Auschwitz in January 1945.
THE ADDRESS OF THE DIRECTOR OF THE AUSCHWITZ MEMORIAL DR. PIOTR M. A. CYWIŃSKI
There were also children in the camp.
They were murdered and were dying.
Full of innocence, trust, willingness and dreams.
Little Jewish and Roma children,
Polish children from the Zamość region, Belarusian children from the Grodno region,
Children brought from Warsaw during the Uprising…
Children were also born in the camp.
Instead of coming to this world, their lives would come to their end here.
Over two hundred thousand children-victims.
A few hundred survivors.
As it is impossible to bring the victims back to life,
a child-survivor would not have their childhood restored either.
The childhood in the frantic world of the adults.
While looking into the eyes of the youngest victims of Auschwitz,
one cannot but ask about ourselves, the post-war generation.
As today the children are also murdered, they are sold,
abused as slaves, hungry and starved, abandoned and lonely!
So why do we feel so distant from the era of the camps?
Never before were the people as powerful and skilful as today.
Whereas we all care more about
our own convenience in our world
than for creating a better world for the children and the entire future.
We want the children to respect other people…
But do we respect their opinions?
We want the children to trust others…
But are we able to trust them?
We want the children to behave responsibly…
But don’t we disregard their problems?
We want the children to grow up being loved…
But do we make them feel that we love them?
We want them to be able to react to evil…
And we do almost nothing in front of their eyes!
Janusz Korczak used to warn:
“We cannot leave the world as it is!”
The future is not
what will come someday, later, on its own!
It is already here, already alive and developing
in our intentions,
in our choices
and in our indifference.
Today, where can the future be seen better than in our today’s passivity,
inability to react, to give a helping hand?
We delude ourselves that wars, disasters or pandemics change the world.
But our passivity is the greatest source of victims.
And among them, the weakest, the most trustful and innocent
– are always children.