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The words of hatred poison the imagination and stupefy consciousness. The 74th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz


On January 27, more than 50 former prisoners of Auschwitz and Holocaust survivors met at the former Auschwitz camp to commemorate the 74th anniversary of the liberation of this German Nazi concentration and extermination camp. The event was held under the honorary patronage of the President of the Republic of Poland, Andrzej Duda.


The witnesses to history were accompanied among others, by the Prime Minister of the Republic of Poland Mateusz Morawiecki, Deputy Prime Minister Beata Szydło, representatives of the Polish Government, the Prime Minister of North Rhine-Westphalia Armin Laschet, ambassadors and diplomats, representatives of the clergy, regional authorities, local governments, employees of museums and memorial sites.

In 2019, we will commemorate the 75th anniversary of the creation of the railway siding inside the Auschwitz II-Birkenau camp along with the unloading and selection ramp, which extended almost to the gas chambers and crematoria II and III. From mid-May 1944, it received transports of Jews from Hungary, Slovakia, the ghettos of Litzmannstadt and Theresienstadt among others, deported by the Germans for immediate extermination. It was also a stop for transports carrying Poles from insurgent Warsaw, sent to Auschwitz via the transit camp in Pruszków. Consequently, the visual symbol of the anniversary was the work of former Auschwitz prisoner Adam Brandhuber “The arrival of the transport to the ramp”.

During the comemmoration event, two former prisoners of the camp took to the floor: Janina Iwańska and Leon Weintraub.

Janina Iwańska was born on 12 June 1930, in Warsaw. She was deported to Auschwitz by the Germans from the Warsaw Uprising. During the evacuation of the camp, she was first transferred to the Ravensbrück camp, and then to Neustadt-Glewe.

'Anyone who enters the site of the camp in Birkenau passes by a wagon standing on the ramp. For the majority, it is merely a freight wagon that carried prisoners to the concentration camp. For me, this wagon is associated with something else. I saw this wagon for the first time in 1942 while travelling through Treblinka on vacation to my grandmother. People were sitting there, either already dead or waiting for death,' she said.

Recalling her deportation to Auschwitz in 1944, she said: 'When I got out of the wagon; I sensed a familiar smell from Treblinka, the smell of burnt bodies. I knew the same fate as those in Treblinka awaited me. With this mindset, I entered the building, where our hair was cut to the bare skin. After a bath, we were given striped uniforms and marked with a number and red triangle badge with the letter P, which indicated that we were political prisoners from Poland. I received the number 85595. Through a column of children, we were led to the children’s block,' she recalled.

At the end of her account, the former prisoner recited the poem “Oh, Void Complaints” by Adam Asnyk:

“It is the living we must follow,
And leave the former life beneath.
Abandon the persistence hollow,
Shake off the withered laurel wreath!

Unstopped the waves of life proceeding!
No aid in protests you may raise.
Oh, useless wrath and futile pleading!

The world shall follow its own ways. It is my wish that the young and future generations will not have to follow the path I had to go through.”

Leon Weintraub was born on 1 January 1926 in Łódź. During the war, he and his family were confined in the Litzmannstadt ghetto, and from there they were deported in August 1944 to Auschwitz, where Leon was separated from the rest of the family. After several weeks, he was transferred to Głuszyce, and then to the Dörnhau camp and subsequent labour camps.

'In Auschwitz, in this Nazi camp; a place symbolising the unprecedented cruelty in the treatment of people in the history of civilisation; a place, where the technique of mass and industrial murder was introduced, and where the Nazis implemented their ideology,' he said.

'I feel great pain and bemoan that in many European countries including our country, people march with impunity in uniforms similar to those of the Nazi. Such persons openly call themselves Nazis and identify with Nazism, propagating slogans similar to those of the Nazis. This ideology characterised by the sign of a broken cross murdered those it considered ‘sub-humans’. Acknowledging Nazism today is undoubtedly defining oneself as a murderer and perpetrator of genocide because that is the inevitable outcome of such a mindset, which at first proclaims resentment and hostility toward others and defines racism, antisemitism and homophobia as virtues, as did the followers of Nazism. And to think that this is happening in our country, which encountered so much destruction and suffering during the Nazi occupation,' he said.

'On behalf of myself and the survivors, I represent here today; I wish to thank and express my sincere gratitude to the management of the Auschwitz Museum for their daily and indefatigable activities aimed at preserving the memory of the victims of the Nazi ideology and combating prejudices and hostility towards others,' emphasised Leon Weintraub.

The Prime Minister of the Republic of Poland Mateusz Morawiecki said during his address: 'The years 1989, 1939 and 2019 are years of round anniversaries. Polish citizens gained independence 30 years ago. However, 80 years earlier, on the orders of Nazi Germany, Poles living in the II Polish Republic did not only lose their freedom but Polish Jews were sentenced to extermination, as well as Poles as their extermination was precisely calculated in the Generalplan Ost - to murder about 85 per cent. The remaining 15 per cent was to be turned into a slave workforce. This annihilation, which took place then was not the work of the Nazis, but Germany ruled by Hitler.'

'The Polish state upholds the truth, which cannot be relativised in any way. I want to make such a promise of the full truth of those times because we must face the facts. So that the terrible and cruel death of those imprisoned here and in other German concentration camps... does not happen again,' said Prime Minister, Mateusz Morawiecki.

Minister Wojciech Kolarski from the Office of the President of Poland said: 'We are gathered in the circle of eternal memory. We are here once again to give testimony that we will always speak about what transpired here. The President asked me to address the Survivors on his behalf and those of our countrymen. We promise you that we will never cease to propagate the truth about Auschwitz and the crime of the Holocaust. As it has been proclaimed since the day of the liberation of the camp and will continue for generations. We will pass it to our children and grandchildren, and they will further pass it to subsequent generations. In the name of a good future, we also wish to draw conclusions from the tragic history. Protect the world from the consequences of contempt and hate, from underestimating and justifying evil. It is the duty of our hearts and consciences, which must never be neglected.

'Hanna Krall told me that the Holocaust brought out the real face of everyone - sometimes the best, sometimes the worst. These wagons were also such litmus paper. We are familiar with the story of poor people who threw everything they could into the wagons, but also of those who in the presence of the prisoners, poured out the water they paid for onto the ground. I believe that we owe memory to anyone who arrived here or died on the journey, but we should also describe the best and worst experiences of the witnesses of those events,' said the ambassador of Israel, Anna Azari.

'Auschwitz is the place where millions of people receive the vaccination against historical amnesia, which is so desired in our world today. May the madness of war and extermination camps never occur again. May a peaceful sky cover forever cover us all,' said the ambassador of the Russian Federation, Siergiej Andriejew.

'In the beginning was the Word. And then, when it was with the people, it turned out that the word could also destroy,' said the director of the Auschwitz Museum, Dr. Piotr M. A. Cywiński. 'And today words have the power. And it is so destructive. On the Internet, in discussion, on forums, in comments. In the media, titles, captions. In the groups of notions, where the people who are poor, cringing, running away… are presented as people with germs and diseases... In the juxtaposition of concepts, where it depicts people who are poor, intimidated, fleeing... with germs and diseases,' he emphasised.

The words of hatred create hatred. The words of dehumanization dehumanize.  The words of menace increase the threat. So why isn’t this taught at schools? So why does our law allow it? Why do homilies pass it over? Why do the media use the language of war to describe peace?We have already started paying for this. In Poland, in Europe, in the world, said Piotr Cywiński.

The second part of the ceremony took place at the Memorial to the Victims on the premises of the former Auschwitz II-Birkenau. The rabbis and clergy of various Christian denominations jointly recited psalm 42 from the Second Book of Psalms, and participants of the ceremony placed grave candles at the monument commemorating the victims of Auschwitz.

Earlier, on 27 January, former prisoners along with the management and employees of the Auschwitz Memorial laid wreaths in the courtyard of Block 11 in Auschwitz I.

Until the liberation of the camp by soldiers of the Red Army, German Nazis murdered approx. 1.1 million people in Auschwitz, mostly Jews, but also Poles, the Roma, Soviet prisoners of war and people of other nationalities. Auschwitz is to the world today, a symbol of the Holocaust and atrocities of World War II. In 2005, the United Nations adopted 27 January as the International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust.

The address of Dr. Piotr M. A. Cywiński - the director of the Auschwitz Museum - at the 74th anniversary of the liberation of the camp.

In the beginning was the Word.
And then, when it was with the people,
it turned out that the word could also destroy.

Simone Alizon recalled:
“Our words are not your words”.

Ramp does not equal platform.
Number does not equal name.
Segregation or selection does not equal choice.
Barracks does not equal building.

And today words have the power.
And it is so destructive.

On the Internet, in discussion, on forums, in comments.
In the media, titles, captions.
In the groups of notions, where the people who are poor,
cringing, running away… are presented as people with germs and diseases.

In the language of political debate,
in demagogy,
in populism.

In brutal opinions of those who,
supposed to serve, want to lead.

The words of hatred poison the imagination and stupefy consciousness.
Maybe this is why so many remain silent while confronted with evil.
Almost the entire world remained silent last year, confronted with the genocide in Burma.

The words of hatred create hatred.
The words of dehumanization dehumanize.
The words of menace increase the threat.

So why isn’t this taught at schools?
So why does our law allow it?
Why do homilies pass it over?
Why do the media use the language of war to describe peace?

We have already started paying for this.
In Poland, in Europe, in the world.

A year, one year remained
until the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.
Until international commemoration, which should constitute the ceremony of victory!
But we are scared how much destruction can still be done with words.

Raphaël Esrail wrote:
“The camp is not just a memory.
For the majority of us,
its reality is omnipresent in our everyday life.”

I have never heard a more terrible warning.
The warning against our own words.