TODAY |

Services held around New Zealand as 75-year liberation of Auschwitz remembered

It’s 75 years to the day since the Nazi death camp Auschwitz was liberated by Soviet troops.

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Unspeakable atrocities were carried out at the camp where a million people were exterminated in the holocaust with remembrance services held in the main centres. Source: 1 NEWS

Services have been held in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch to honour the one million people, mostly Jews, exterminated at Auschwitz.

A further five million Jews were killed by the Nazis during the Holocaust.

In the Jewish section at Wellington’s Makara cemetery, Holocaust survivors walked hand in hand with children to lay a stone for those who perished.

Those still alive to tell the story are getting fewer, but the terror is seared into their memories.

Wellington woman Inge Woolf was just three when the Nazis arrived in Vienna.

"I remember the swastikas coming out to welcome Hitler’s troops coming into Vienna and it stayed with me all this time, I react physically when I tell the story again," said Mrs Woolf.

What Soviet troops found when they entered Auschwitz 75 years ago defied description.

The Nazi death factory in German-occupied Poland was the size of a city and dedicated to the killing of Jews, Gypsies, disabled people and homosexuals.

Prisoners were dehumanised, given serial numbers and the Jewish made to wear identifying stars.

Aucklander Bob Narev was in a “transit camp” – a stop on the way to Auschwitz.

“This is the star which we were required to wear from the late 1930s to identify us as Jews. And if that was taken off it was at the risk of your life,” said Mr Narev.

Wellington man Steven Sedley was separated from his parents. His father was put in a concentration camp but survived.

“More dead than alive, he was unconscious for weeks if not months but somehow he was nursed back to life,” said Mr Sedley.

Today was as much about the past as it was the future.

Anti-Semitism is on the rise in New Zealand and the rest of the world but we are told we must never forget the horrors of the Holocaust. Today that message was loud and clear.

The Race Relations Commissioner set out a plan to combat intolerance.

"I'm on a mission to stop bullying in schools,” said Meng Foon. One of his other tasks is to write up a national action plan against racism.

Anti-Semitism might be rearing its ugly head but people like Eckhardt Reynke are calling it out.

The young builder who noticed Swastikas on a Jewish temple in Wellington and promptly painted over them.

Today he was honoured by the Jewish community for standing up to the hate that was ignored by so many people during the Holocaust.