Germany held a minute’s silence to mark 75 years since the Bergen-Belsen Nazi concentration camp was liberated, after planned commemorations were cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Stephan Weil, Lower Saxony state premier, called on residents to observe the silence to remember the liberation on April 15, 1945, urging them to set aside “all of our current worries.”
More than 50,000 people died at the Bergen-Belsen camp, including the diarist Anne Frank, whose accounts of the Holocaust have become a symbol of the suffering inflicted by the Nazis during World War II.
Commemorative events originally planned for the weekend have been postponed to April 2021 and the memorial site to the camp is closed because of restrictions imposed to slow the spread of COVID-19. Some of the planned speeches are now to be delivered online.
“For us in Lower Saxony, Bergen-Belsen is the place that shows us the cruelty and mercilessness of the darkest part of our history,” Weil said.
Jens-Christian Wagner, head of Lower Saxony’s memorial foundation, told Bavarian Radio that the cancellation of the memorial event was a “very, very big disappointment” for survivors of the camp, who had been planning to travel to Germany from around the world.
Bergen-Belsen was one of the first concentration camps to be liberated by the Western Allies, who arrived to find it riddled with disease and about 10,000 unburied corpses.
Those held at the camp included Jews as well as prisoners of war, homosexuals and political opponents.
The Buchenwald former concentration camp marked the 75th anniversary of its liberation by publishing an online “Declaration of Thuringia” warning that “human rights, democracy and freedom can by no means be taken for granted” as “right-wing radicalism and authoritarianism are on the rise.”