World leaders join survivors of the Holocaust at a ceremony to mark the sixtieth anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.

On 27 January 1945 soldiers from the Soviet army entered the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp and liberated just over seven thousand people remaining there following withdrawal by the Nazis,

One million one hundred thousand people were killed here. One million of them Jews from all over Europe, Polish political prisoners, Gypsies and Russian prisoners of war were the other main victims.

At a ceremony in Krakow the president of Poland Aleksander Kwasniewski awarded Polish national military decorations to veteran Red Army officer Yakov Vinnichenko and two of his surviving comrades for their participation in the liberation of the camp.

Russian president Vladimir Putin expressed his shame that anti-Semitism is still strong in Russia today, while Ukrainian president Viktor Yushenko, the son of an Auschwitz survivor, pledged to rid his country of racism and xenophobia. 

Holocaust survivors gathered at the former death camp for a special ceremony of commemoration. Many present, although old and frail, made the journey in memory of their fellow inmates who did not survive. 

Berliner Werner Bap spent three years here, and returned today accompanied by the president of Germany. He told RTÉ News

After 60 years it’s amazing to me that I’m still alive...you never knew how long you were going to live, any minute they could kill you.

Forty heads of state took part in the ceremony of remembrance including the President of Ireland Mary McAleese

Most are backing a new initiative to promote teaching of the Holocaust in Europe’s schools to ensure that no-one forgets this dark period of history. This was emphasised in an address by Auschwitz survivor Elie Wiesel to those gathered in Krakow, when he called for an end to, 

The curse of hatred...the scourge of anti-Semitism, racism, bigotry, hatred.

An RTÉ News report broadcast on 27 January 2005. The reporter is Seán Whelan.