Shoah Foundation founder and Academy Award-winning director Steven Spielberg joined Holocaust survivors and dozens of world leaders at the Auschwitz concentration camp in Krakow Tuesday for the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the death camp where over one million Jews lost their lives in World War II.
Spielberg, who won an Oscar for the 1993 Holocaust film Schindler’s List, was joined by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, German Prime Minister Joachim Gauck, French President Francois Hollande, British Foreign Secretary Phillip Hammond, and royals from Sweden, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands, among others, according to the Daily Mail. Notably absent was U.S. President Barack Obama; instead, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew led the U.S. delegation.
In his remarks, Spielberg warned of the global rise of anti-Semitism.
“If you are a Jew today, in fact if you are any person who believes in freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of expression, you know that like many other groups we’re once again facing the perennial demons of intolerance,” Spielberg said.
Antisemites, radical extremists, and religious fanatics that provoke hate crime – these people that want to, all over again, strip you of your past, of your story and of your identity, and just as we talk about our personal histories and what makes us who we are, these people make their own points. Facebook pages, for instance, identify Jews and their geographic locations with the intention to attack, and the growing effort to banish Jews from Europe.
“The most effective way we can combat this intolerance and honor those who survived and those who perished is to call on each other to do what the survivors have already done,” Spielberg continued. “To remember and to never forget.”
The Auschwitz concentration camp was liberated by the Soviet Army on January 27, 1945, during the last months of the war. Some 300 survivors returned Tuesday to the site where many of their relatives and friends were murdered by the Nazis 70 years ago.
Celina Biniaz, 83, one of the 1,200 Jews saved by Oskar Schindler, told the Daily Mail that she sees parallels between the situation in the Middle East today and the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe.
“I so wish they would settle that problem in the Middle East because I so believe that it has a definite impact on what’s happening with anti-Semitism all over Europe,” Biniaz said. “The Muslims have been disenfranchised and their young have no hope for the future, so they are desperate and it sounds glamorous for them to join things like ISIS.”
The commemoration at Auschwitz coincided with International Holocaust Remembrance Day. However, an event scheduled at the United Nations in New York was reportedly postponed due to a blizzard in the region.