Poland marks anniversary of Auschwitz liberation in virtual ceremony

To commemorate Holocaust Remembrance Day on the 76th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi German death camp Auschwitz, a virtual ceremony was held due to coronavirus restrictions.

This year's commemorative ceremonies particularly highlighted the fate of children, of whom occupying German forces deported at least 232,000 to Auschwitz during the Holocaust. Among them were 216,000 Jewish children, 11,000 Roma, 3,000 Poles, over 1,000 Belarusians and several hundred Russians, Ukrainians and others. More than 200,000 of them died.

Polish President Andrzej Duda said during the virtual event that the "memory and truth about the Holocaust will live on forever," adding that January 27 marks Holocaust Remembrance Day and serves as a moment for the international community to remember and pay tribute to six million murdered Jews.

Two former prisoners also spoke during the ceremony: a Polish woman Zdzisława Włodarczyk and Anita Lasker-Wallfisch, the descendant of a German-Jewish family.

Zdzisława Włodarczyk, deported to the camp in August 1944 from the Warsaw Uprising, said that "children were born in the camp, but they had no chance to live as they were killed on the spot." "They had no names or even numbers," she recalled. "How many of those children died? Why? Were we enemies of the Third Reich?"

Remembering her time at the death camp, she said the nights were the worst. "The children cried, called out for their mothers in their sleep," she said. "With time, the voices were silenced because they knew that no one would come to put their hands on their heads. They died alone."

Anita Lasker-Wallfisch, a German Jew, arrived at the camp at the end of 1943. "I arrived (...) rid of the slightest illusion," she said. "Everybody knew what happened here. I was 18 years old and was about to burn, to turn into smoke. For the fact that I'm still alive I am grateful to the absurdities of that life. Believe it or not, there was music in that hell and because I knew how to play the cello, I can share my story with you here, today."

After the main ceremony, an online discussion was held entitled 'The influence of the war and Holocaust on forming children's identity,' with the participation of Holocaust survivor Lei Brandt, former Auschwitz prisoner Janina Reklajtis and the president of the Kindertransport Association, Melissa Hacker.