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Germany: Commemoration for Nazi Camp Victims on Liberation Anniversary

In Germany, the victims of the Nazi concentration camps in Bergen-Belsen, Sachsenhausen and Ravensbrück were commemorated today, on the 75th anniversary of their liberation. Because of Corona, two remembrance events took place online. Another was postponed.

Until Nazi Germany’s unconditional surrender to the Allies in May of 1945, six million Jews were murdered in the Third Reich’s concentration camps, along with Gypsies, homosexuals, handicapped people and others. Three of those camps, namely Sachsenhausen, Ravensbrück and Bergen-Belsen were liberated by Allied troops 75 years ago.

Three of Many Concentration Camps

  • At the Bergen-Belsen camp, more than 50,000 forced laborers died because of the abuse and the terrible conditions there. Thousands of Jews were sent here on their way to death camps such as Auschwitz-Birkenau. Anne Frank, one of the most famous Holocaust victims, died here. On April 12th, 1945, a ceasefire between the incoming British troops and the German Wehrmacht was signed. Because of a typhus epidemic, an immediate evacuation of the camp did not take place. Even after the liberation, thousands of former inmates died of illnesses. On April 17th, 1945, British Army soldiers arrested the staff of the Bergen-Belsen camp.
  • Tens of thousands of people were killed at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp outside Berlin. Many died as a result of terrible medical experiments the Nazis performed on them, of illnesses, hunger, forced labor and other forms of abuse. Thousands of Jews were sent to Sachsenhausen before they were forced to board freight trains to the Auschwitz death camp. Soviet prisoners of war were executed here. On April 21st, 2020, Hitler’s SS ‘cleared’ the camp by sending 36,000 inmates on death marches many did not survive. A day later, the Red Army reached Sachsenhausen.
  • Ravensbrück was a Nazi concentration camp for women. Before it was liberated by the Red Army on April 30th, 1945, the Nazis murdered at least 28,000 girls and women, including Jews from Poland. Ravensbrück had its own gas chamber. Just like in Sachsenhausen, medical experiments and enforced sterilizations without anesthesia were performed on inmates. When the Red Army came closer, thousands of inmates were sent on death marches during which many more girls and women died.

‘Liberation Took Place Too Late’

At Maria Regina Martyrum, a church in Berlin, a Jewish-Christian remembrance service was held on Sunday, for the victims of the Sachsenhausen and Ravensbrück camps both of which were located in Brandenburg. Because of the danger posed by the Coronavirus, the church was almost empty. The event was aired on RBB TV.

During the commemoration, Andreas Nachama of the German Rabbi Conference and Provost Christina-Maria Bammel of the Lutheran Church read reports authored by Holocaust survivors who were inmates at the two Nazi concentration camps. “The liberation in the spring of 1945 took place too late for many and remained a dream”, Provost Bammel said.

‘Sadness and Shame’

She also talked about responsibility: “Where were the Christians, when their Jewish sisters and brothers were agonized and murdered in the camps?”, she asked. Nachama commemorated his father who survived concentration camps and a death march. “Where was God in those times?”, he asked.

In a video message, Germany’s Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said more than 20,000 people had been killed in Sachsenhausen alone. “If there was a minute of silence for every victim, it would be silent for two weeks”, Maas stated. The Holocaust victims should never be forgotten.

Commemoration in Bergen-Belsen

A large commemoration event for the victims of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Lower Saxony was postponed by one year because of the Corona crisis. But Lower Saxony’s First Minister Stephan Weil laid down a wreath at the memorial site. “Bergen-Belsen is and remains an open wound in our history”, Weil said. “We commemorate the victims in deep sadness and shame.”

On Monday and Tuesday, April 20th and 21st, Yom HaShoah, Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day for the 6 million Jews who were murdered in the Holocaust, will be observed by Jews all over the world. The International Holocaust Remembrance Day has a different date. It is being observed on January 27th.

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