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    World leaders prepare to remember Holocaust victims

    Credit: Belga

    The Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp will be visited by numerous world leaders on Monday the 27th of January. 

    They will be there to attend the official remembrance ceremony for the victims of the Nazi regime’s brutality. 

    The German camp was liberated by Russian troops 75 years ago, on 27 January 1945. The world was then shown some of the worst of the Nazi regime’s atrocities and what the Jewish people, in particular, had suffered. 

    The famous “door of death” to the Birkenau extermination camp has been covered in a gigantic white tent for the occasion. Numerous heads of state, government and representatives will participate in the international remembrance ceremony for the Auschwitz victims. 

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    King Philippe, Queen Mathilde and Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès will represent Belgium. Outgoing Prime Minister and President of the European Council Charles Michel will also be at Birkenau.  A delegation from the Belgian Jewish community and a Belgian survivor will also travel to Auschwitz. 

    Around 200 former prisoners and Auschwitz survivors, witnesses to the indescribable horror, will also attend the ceremony. Survivors from the USA, Canada, Israel and several European countries are expected to attend, along with former Polish prisoners. 

    “This anniversary, this memory, this symbol of the Auschwitz liberation is one of the foundations of post-war life in Europe and the world. That’s why I am not surprised that many leaders have decided it would be difficult to be anywhere else on that particular day. It’s clear to me that we will all be united at Auschwitz for the 75th anniversary, with living survivors among us,” said the director of the Auschwitz Museum and Memorial, Piotr Cywinski. 

    Although Auschwitz-Birkenau was not the only extermination camp the Nazis built during the Second World War, it has become a symbol for all the victims of the Nazi regime and in particular the Jewish victims because of the way it industrialised death. 

    1.3 million people were deported and sent to the camp during World War Two. 1.1 million people, 1 million of them Jews, were killed there. Most of them perished in the gas chambers but many died of exhaustion and maltreatment. 1 million of the 6 million Jewish people killed by the Nazis died at Auschwitz, which was the final destination and mortuary for European Jews. 

    In Belgium, 25,835 people were deported to Auschwitz from Mechelen between the 4th of August 1942 and the 31st of July 1944. Just 1,240 Jewish people returned to Belgium at the end of the war, which is around 5% of those deported there. 

    Sarah Johansson
    The Brussels Times