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How should Germany mark the Holocaust?

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How should Germany mark the Holocaust?
Auschwitz, a "Disneyland for death"? Photo: DPA
12:37 CET+01:00
The day of remembrance on Monday for victims of National Socialism has sparked a debate in Germany about how to best remember those killed by the Nazis.

For some commentators the service in Germany's Parliament (the Bundestag) was a proud moment to show how the country has developed, 69 years after Auschwitz was liberated by the Red Army.

But for others the memorials on Monday, which combined remembrance for both Holocaust victims and Russians killed by the Nazis, as January 27th also marked 70 years since the end of the siege of Leningrad, confused two separate groups of victims. 

"It cannot be said enough - the whole of humanity must never be allowed to forget Auschwitz," the Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung wrote. "Contemporary witnesses are still around to tell us the tales of suffering from this camp and horrors from other places.

“But the number of these renowned Holocaust survivors is dwindling every year. In the long term, it will become increasingly difficult to keep alive the memory of the inhuman mass extermination and the death marches and to inform new generations about them.

“The Bundestag has once again been successful in not allowing this crucial day of remembrance of Auschwitz and the Holocaust to become a tedious ritual, a compulsory act. This year’s remembrance hour was another great moment in Parliament.”

Writing in Der Tagesspiegel, journalist Malte Lehming questioned the remembrance of both Russians and Holocaust victims on the same day.

"During the Second World War, 20 million Russians lost their lives. Soldiers of the Red Army liberated the Auschwitz concentration camp. Denying, relativizing or offsetting these figures with subsequent losses would be wrong.

“German guilt must also cover these crimes against Russians in the period of National Socialism. Remembrance of these crimes is both right and important. The only question is when should we remember them?

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“January 27th is Holocaust Memorial Day. It is an international day of remembrance for all those who were murdered by Nazis in the concentration camps. But on January 27th, Russians also commemorate the lifting of the German army’s siege of Leningrad.

"It was therefore considered appropriate for the Bundestag and the President of Germany to extend the act of remembrance and concentrate - almost solely - on the suffering of the Russians.

“Yet extending this remembrance risks diluting the act itself, or, to put it more precisely - are all the enemies of the Nazi regime also Holocaust victims? Or does the specific nature of January 27th from a German standpoint get lost in this generalization?

For Henryk M. Broder writing in Die Welt, Auschwitz has become a "Disneyland for death". 

“Although the Auschwitz Museum in Poland has more visitors from around the world each year than the number of people who were murdered in the camp, it seems that anti-Semitism and the tendency to trivialize the Holocaust has nonetheless been on the increase,” he wrote.

“We should recognize the admirable intentions of the curators of the Auschwitz Museum, one of the biggest tourist attractions in Poland.

“It would, of course, not be the first time in the history of education that good intentions have come to nothing or even been counterproductive. The “Central League of German citizens of Jewish Faith” sent out a call when World War I broke out to “comrades in faith” in the German Empire.

He added: “Auschwitz has not only become a Disneyland for death, whose visitors can scare themselves without fear of harm, it also corroborates the German-Jewish philosopher Theodor Lessing, who over 100 years ago said that history ‘gives meaning to the meaningless’.” 

READ MORE: Nazi camp worker faces anti-Semitism charge

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