A prominent survivor and former director of the memorial to Auschwitz, the Nazi death camp where 1.1 million Jews and others were exterminated, died in a nearby town today, the 67th anniversary of the camp’s liberation by Soviet forces, according to the Associated Press.
Kazimierz Smolen, 91, died in a hospital in the Polish town of Oswiecim, where German forces operated the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp from May 1940 to January 1945, the news agency said.
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Today is the UN’s International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust, held to mark the day in 1945 that advancing Soviet troops liberated the camp.
In a related development, Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg today apologized for his country's role in the deportations of Jews and Jewish refugees when his country was controlled by Nazi Germany during World War II, according to Reuters, which said nearly a thousand Norwegian Jews were sent to their deaths.
According to the AP, Auschwitz-Birkenau became a museum in 1947 and Smolen was its director for 35 years beginning in 1955. He continued to live there after his retirement.
Survivors attending ceremonies at the camp today held a moment of silence in his honor after being informed of his death, the AP said, citing Pawel Sawicki, a spokesman for the state museum.
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In an interview cited by the AP, Smolen was once quoted as explaining his role at the museum as the duty of a survivor.
"Sometimes when I think about it, I feel it may be some kind of sacrifice, some kind of obligation I have for having survived," he was quoted as saying.
The AP also reported today that Turkish state television today began broadcasting the epic French Holocaust documentary “Shoah,” the first time such a film had ever been shown in a predominantly Muslim country.
"It is a historical event," filmmaker Claude Lanzmann, 87, was quoted as saying in a telephone interview from his home in Paris. "It is extremely important that it is being shown in a Muslim country."