A commemoration ceremony was held in Auschwitz today, to mark 77 years since the liberation of the Nazi concentration camp by the Soviet army.
Of the six million Jews killed in the Holocaust, more than one million were murdered at Auschwitz-Birkenau, most in its notorious gas chambers, along with tens of thousands of others including homosexuals, Roma and Soviet prisoners of war.
On RTÉ Radio One today, Tomi Reichental, a Holocaust survivor who now lives in Dublin, reflected on his time as a nine-year-old inmate in the Bergen-Belsen camp in Germany.
The camp was liberated by the British army three months after Auschwitz, a three-month wait which Tomi said was "very tragic".
"My grandmother succumbed to starvation and the inhuman condition in the camp and passed away on 7 March 1945, only one month before our liberation.
"I watched as her body was thrown on a pile of corpses in front of our barracks. It is one of my darkest memories that I have to carry all my life. What I witnessed as a nine-year-old boy is impossible to describe. The starvation, cold, disease and the cruelty of the guards. People who were just skin and bone, walking skeletons, sometimes falling, never to get up again."
He said that as the years pass "it is more important than ever that we never forget the Holocaust. Racism and anti-Semitism are on the rise again".
"We remember today the six million Jews that were murdered, not because they did something wrong. They were murdered just because they were Jewish. I lost thirty-five members of my family in the Holocaust that included my grandparents, my aunts and uncles, cousins, a brain surgeon, an architect, an accountant and a lawyer. We owe it to the victims that their memory is not forgotten."
Here, the National Holocaust Memorial Day commemoration will be marked on Sunday at a ceremony in the Mansion House in Dublin.
77 years ago today over 7,000 prisoners of the German Nazi camp #Auschwitz, including some 700 children, were liberated by the soldiers of the Soviet Army. 1,689 days of murder, pain, suffering, and humiliation were over. Today we all remember. We must remember. | #Auschwitz77 pic.twitter.com/ro8kTiNEer— Auschwitz Memorial (@AuschwitzMuseum) January 27, 2022
Meanwhile, in what was expected to be one of the last addresses by a Holocaust survivor to the German parliament, 87-year-old Inge Auerbacher appealed on Thursday to keep alive the victims' memory.
Fighting back tears as she recalled the suffering and loss she endured at the hands of the Nazis, Ms Auerbacher told the Bundestag as it marked International Holocaust Remembrance Day that it was essential to fight the spreading "cancer" of hatred.
"I have lived in New York for 75 years and can still remember well this terrible time of terror and hate," Ms Auerbacher said.
"This sickness must be healed as soon as possible," she said to applause from MPs, Chancellor Olaf Scholz and his cabinet.
Ms Auerbacher said she had been the last Jewish child born in her hometown of Kippenheim in 1934 before the Nazis' genocidal campaign.
The speaker of the Israeli Knesset, Mickey Levy, who was also in attendance embraced Ms Auerbacher and wept openly as he recited a prayer for the dead.
"Keeping the memory of the Holocaust alive is a difficult task, a task placed on the shoulders of every generation," he said.
Germany has officially marked Holocaust Remembrance Day every January 27 since 1996 with commemorations across the country.
Scholz's spokesman Steffen Hebestreit noted that Germany would "soon have to go forward without the personal recollections of the last survivors".
This year's anniversary is marked by growing concerns about extremist violence and incitement in Germany, particularly among militant opponents of government coronavirus restrictions.