Leaders lay wreaths during ceremony marking liberation of Bergen-Belsen. (AP/Martin Meissner) (AP/Martin Meissner)
Bergen Belsen Lauder

At an event marking 70 years since the liberation of the Bergen-Belsen Nazi death camp, World Jewish Congress president Ronald Lauder warned that it can happen again.

Holocaust survivors and officials gathered Sunday at the memorial site of the former Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in northern Germany in a solemn ceremony commemorating the liberation of the camp 70 years ago.

The camp was liberated on April 15, 1945, by British soldiers who found more than 10,000 dead bodies when they entered the camp.

“Right now, we stand on one of the largest Jewish cemeteries in the world. But there are no gravestones, there are no markers,” Ronald Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress (WJC), said in his speech. “The victims buried here lost not just their lives; the Nazis took their identities as well.”

Participants at the ceremony commemoration ceremony. (AP/Martin Meissner)

Marching during the commemoration ceremony. (AP/Martin Meissner)

Ceremonies have been held across Germany and Poland throughout the spring marking the advance of Allied troops as Nazi Germany neared defeat. The events are especially poignant this year because of the dwindling number of survivors and witnesses to the Holocaust.

Lauder praised Jewish resilience following the slaughter of six million Jews at the hands of the Nazis and their collaborators. “From the ashes of this terrible place, the Jewish people rose up and moved on,” he stated.

“But tragically,” he warned, “70 years later, the world is not moving on; it is moving backward.” Striking a cautious note, Lauder warned his audience that anti-Semitism is on the rise again in Europe. The world is “descending into the same, dangerous hell where we found ourselves before,” he said.

“Today, 70 years after this camp was liberated, we hear the same anti-Semitic lies,” Lauder continued. “Today, a Jewish boy wearing a yarmulke cannot walk down the street in Paris or London or Copenhagen without fearing for his life.  Right-wing neo-Nazi groups are winning seats in Parliament in Hungary and Greece. Iranian leaders repeatedly promise to wipe Israel from the pages of time.”

The WJC president said most countries were somewhat culpable, including the United States for shutting its doors “to Jews desperately trying to leave.”

“We know the perpetrators – but they were not just Germans and Austrians. There was complicity in practically every country in Europe,” he said.

German President Joachim Gauck honored the British soldiers as “ambassadors of a democratic culture who were not looking for revenge.”

Around 200,000 people were deported to Bergen-Belsen during the Nazi reign of terror. More than 70,000 people died there — among them famous Jewish teenage diarist Anne Frank.

Commemorations were also held at the former Flossenbuerg camp in southern Germany, where some 30,000 people died between 1938 and 1945. Flossenbuerg was liberated by American soldiers on April 23, 1945.

By: AP and United with Israel Staff