BRUSSELS (AP) — European Union lawmakers will observe a minute’s silence on Thursday and welcome a centenarian Holocaust survivor as the world remembers Nazi atrocities and commemorates the 77th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration camp. Auschwitz.
Margot Friedlander will address the European Parliament as part of the commemorations of International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
The United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution in November 2005 establishing the annual commemoration and chose January 27, the day Auschwitz-Birkenau was liberated by Soviet troops in 1945.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, many International Holocaust Remembrance Day commemorations will again be held online this year. A small ceremony, however, will take place at the site of the former Auschwitz death camp, where World War II Nazi German forces killed 1.1 million people in occupied Poland. The memorial site was closed earlier in the pandemic but reopened in June.
In total, approximately 6 million European Jews and millions of other people were killed by the Nazis and their collaborators during the Holocaust. Some 1.5 million were children.
Friedlander, 100, was arrested in 1944 while on the run and taken to Theresienstadt concentration camp in what is now the Czech Republic. A year earlier, his mother and brother had been deported to Auschwitz, where they had both been killed.
Friedlander and her husband immigrated to the United States in 1946 and returned to Berlin in 2010. Since then, she has traveled throughout Germany telling her life story and promoting remembrance.
Charles Michel, the head of the EU Council bringing together the leaders of the 27 EU member countries, stressed the importance of commemorating the Holocaust as the number of survivors decreases each year.
“With each passing year, the Holocaust tends to become a historic event,” Michel said. “More and more distant, more and more abstract. Especially in the eyes of the younger generations of Europeans. This is why, paradoxically, the more the years pass, the more the commemoration becomes important. The most essential.
Commemorations are taking place amid a surge in anti-Semitism that gained ground during the lockdowns as the pandemic heightened online hate.
To combat Holocaust denial, UNESCO and the World Jewish Congress on Thursday launched a partnership with online platform TikTok popular with young people. They say this will allow users to be directed to verified information when searching for Holocaust-related terms.
According to the UN, 17% of Holocaust-related content on TikTok denied or misrepresented the Holocaust.
“Denying, distorting or trivializing the true facts of the Holocaust is a pernicious form of contemporary anti-Semitism,” said UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay. “All online platforms must take responsibility for the spread of hate speech by promoting trusted sources of information.”
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