The Council of Europe commemorates the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau camps

On the morning of the 27th January 1945, the Soviet Army liberated over 7.000 prisoners still in the Auschwitz-Birkenau camps. On 18 January, some 60,000 had already been evacuated by the SS on the Death March to Germany. Six million Jews were exterminated during the war.. At midday on 25 January 2005, a commemoration ceremony involving Mr Szewach Weiss, Chairman of the Yad Vashem Council and former Speaker of the Knesset, and Mr Jean Samuel, an Auschwitz survivor, will be held to mark the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. The President of the Parliamentary Assembly will give a speech on the subject in the Assembly chamber before observing a minute’s silence. On the forecourt, the Secretary General Terry Davis will make a statement and then, Szewach Weiss and Jean Samuel will unveil a memorial stone. During the ceremony, the flags of the member States in front of Council of Europe headquarters will be flown at half-mast. The Council has also introduced a “Day of Remembrance of the Holocaust and for the prevention of crimes against humanity”, a measure proposed by the Ministers of Education of the Council of Europe member States, meeting in Strasbourg on 18 October 2002. On this occasion they expressed the wish that each country should be able to choose the day on which it would commemorate the Holocaust according to its own experience of history. Thus, while France and Germany have chosen the actual day on which Auschwitz was liberated, 27 January, to remember the Holocaust, Hungary commemorates the creation of the first Jewish ghetto, on 16 April, and Luxembourg remembers 10 October, the day on which its inhabitants refused to call themselves Germans. The Council of Europe also assists teachers in preparing for remembrance days by providing them with teaching materials and documents and helping them to gather eye-witness reports. The project is intended in particular to help school pupils to be aware of these events which darkened our history, to think about all the genocides and crimes against humanity which marked the 20th century, to educate them to prevent such events from recurring and to nurture understanding, tolerance and friendship between nations and racial and religious groups. From 4 to 6 May 2005, a ministerial seminar will be held at the initiative of the Polish chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers. This, the second meeting of its kind forms part of the taken to implement Recommendation (2001) 15 of the Committee of Ministers on history teaching in twenty-first century Europe and the Decision of the Ministers of Education on Holocaust remembrance day. One part of the seminar will take place at Jagellon University in Krakow, founded in 1364, and the other on the actual site of the Auschwitz-Birkenau camps. BPI-info