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Thousands of Jews march in Poland, Lithuania to honor Holocaust victims

March-of-the-Living

Participants of the traditional 'March of the Living' walk behind a railway track inside the former Auschwitz-Birkenau Nazi Death Camp near Oswiecim, southern Poland Monday.

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WARSAW, Poland — About 7,000 Jews marched to the former German Nazi death camp of Auschwitz on Monday in memory of the 6 million Holocaust victims.

Participants in the 20th annual March of the Living were carrying Israeli flags. They started from the former camp’s gate with the infamous “Arbeit Macht Frei” (“Work Sets You Free”) sign.

The crowd walked about 3 kilometers (2 miles) from the red brick buildings of Auschwitz I to the wooden barracks and gas chambers of Birkenau, or Auschwitz II, where a memorial ceremony was held at a monument to the camp’s victims.

The march, which is traditionally held on Holocaust Memorial Day, also included some Holocaust survivors.

Between 1942-1945, Jews from across Europe were brought to Birkenau by rail and killed in its gas chambers. At least 1.1 million people — mostly Jews, Poles and Gypsies — died that way or from starvation, disease and forced labor at the camp that German Nazis built in occupied Poland during World War II.

The Auschwitz camp was liberated Jan. 27, 1945 by Soviet troops.

Meanwhile, in Lithuania dozens of people paid tribute to the nearly 200,000 Jews who died 70 years ago when the Nazis invaded the country.

Waving Israeli and Lithuanian flags, about 100 demonstrators paid tribute to the dead by marching to the Holocaust survivor memorial outside the capital, Vilnius.

Visiting Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said it was important to remember the 6 million Jews murdered in Europe by the Nazis because “anti-Semitism, xenophobia and racism ... are still threatening all of us.”

Some 90 percent of the country’s pre-war Jewish population of 220,000 were murdered by the Nazis and local collaborators — the country’s largest loss of life in such a short time. Most of the 70,000 Jews in the capital were killed within a few months in 1941.

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