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Marking The Auschwitz Liberation

The following is an editorial reflecting the views of the United States government:

On January 27th, leaders from around the world will meet in Poland for ceremonies marking the sixtieth anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death camps. Vice President Dick Cheney will head the U.S. delegation.

On January 27th, 1945, soldiers of what was then the Soviet Union entered Auschwitz in southern Poland. There, they found the gruesome results of Nazi German dictator Adolf Hitler’s policy of genocide against the Jews of Europe. The Nazis also murdered millions of Slavs, Gypsies and members of other targeted groups. More than one million people, ninety percent of them Jews, were murdered at Auschwitz.

In April 1945, American troops liberated two more Nazi death camps, Buchenwald and Dachau. And British soldiers liberated Bergen-Belsen, where they found thousands of unburied corpses and thousands of near-dead prisoners. Altogether, through forced marches, slave labor and systematic murder, Nazi Germany killed some six million Jews, a quarter of whom were were children. The genocide has since become known as the Holocaust.

On January 24, the United Nations held a special session of its General Assembly to commemorate the liberation of Nazi concentration camps. The Nobel prize-winning author Elie Wiesel, a Holocaust survivor, addressed the assembly and asked, "Will the world ever learn?"

Donald Braum, deputy director for Holocaust Issues at the U.S. Department of State, says commemorating the liberation of Auschwitz will serve as a reminder of the crimes that human beings can commit in the service of an evil ideology:

"I think there are real lessons for today that we need to glean from remembering the Holocaust, remembering the camps, remembering the death and the atrocities that were committed there. So that as we look at current-day events, whether it’s anti-Semitism in Europe or elsewhere in the world, or other types of prejudice, against Muslims, against people of other faiths, that we understand what can happen if in fact we don’t take measures - whether it’s education, whether it’s legislation or law-enforcement - to combat that type of intolerance that in fact was at the base of what led to the Holocaust."

U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz lost most of his extended family in the Holocaust. He told the U.N General Assembly that there have been "far too many occasions in the six decades since the liberation of the concentration camps when the world ignored inconvenient truths so that it would not have to act or acted too late." Nations, Mr. Wolfowitz said, "cannot close their eyes and sit idly by in the face of genocide."