News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

January 27, 2010

Ceremonies commemorates 65th anniversary of Auschwitz liberation

OSWIECIEM, Poland — “That was wild – to my right, I had the president of Poland, and to my left, I had the prime minister of Israel,” said Eva Mozes Kor, Holocaust survivor and founder of the CANDLES Holocaust Museum and Education Center in Terre Haute.

Kor, leading a group of 55 travelers from the United States, participated Wednesday in the official ceremonies commemorating the 65th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz in Poland.

The international crowd braved single-digit temperatures for hours to hear speeches from dignitaries representing Poland, Israel, Russia and the European Union.

The group led by Kor included teachers, students and Terre Haute Mayor Duke Bennett. Despite the bitter cold, the group members appreciated the opportunity to witness the historic ceremony.

At the close of the ceremony, the survivors and delegates laid candles at the International Monument to the Victims at Auschwitz II-Birkenau. Kor and Polish President Lech Kaczynski laid the first candle during the ceremony, followed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Former Auschwitz prisoner August Kowalczyk opened the official ceremony by welcoming the former prisoners and then the many dignitaries in attendance.

Guest speakers included Kaczynski, Netanyahu and officials representing Russia and the European Union. Jewish and Christian clergy also paid homage to the victims and survivors.

On Tuesday, Kor and her group of travelers reenacted the liberation march through the barbed wire gates at Auschwitz I, the site of the famous Soviet Army liberation film. The group also held a private candle-lighting ceremony at the Auschwitz I crematorium.

Dr. Marv Hershenson of Indianapolis concluded the private ceremony by leading the group in an emotional Mourner’s Kaddish, a Jewish prayer honoring the memory of the deceased.

Slaughter is a CANDLES Holocaust Museum and Education Center board member and teaches public relations at Kutztown University of Pennsylvania.

CANDLES Museum Coordinator Kiel Majewski contributed to this report.

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