(MAINNEWS) – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy marked Holocaust Memorial Day and the 78th liberation anniversary of the Auschwitz concentration camp by reminding the world that “indifference kills.”
“We know and remember that indifference kills along with hatred. Indifference and hatred are always capable of creating evil together,” he said in a Friday address. “Today we repeat it even more strongly than before: never again to hatred; never again to indifference.
“The more nations of the world overcome indifference, the less space there will be in the world for hatred,” he added.
Zelenskyy marked the anniversary with a commemoration ceremony at a Menorah memorial at the Babyn Yar National Historical and Memorial Reserve, the site of one of the worst massacres during World War II.
European, Canadian and U.S. diplomatic representatives, including Doug Emhoff, the husband of Vice President Kamala Harris, were present for the ceremony.
A separate service was also held 200 miles west from the Ukrainian border at the site of the Auschwitz concentration camp in southern Poland.
The camp, liberated on Jan. 27, 1945 by Soviet troops, held Jews, Soviet prisoners, Poles, Roma and other targeted groups that were systematically murdered by Nazi troops under Adolf Hitler.
More than 1 million people were killed at Auschwitz during a five-year period.
However, the day’s commemorative events were marred by the war in Ukraine, whose borders are just three-and-a-half hours driving time from the tragic site that became a symbol of evil in the aftermath of WWII.
Auschwitz state museum director Piotr Cywinski compared Nazi crimes to autrocities committed by Russia in places like Ukraine’s Bucha, Izyum and Mariupol and said they stemmed from “similar sick megalomania.”
“Being silent means giving voice to the perpetrators. Remaining indifferent is tantamount to condoning murder,” he said in a statement that echoed Zelenskyy’s warning.
One Auschwitz survivor said Russia’s war in Ukraine has recreated a “feeling of horror” in a Europe, whose leaders pledged “never again” after Nazi atrocities were uncovered in the wake of WWII.
Another survivor, Bogdan Bartnikowski, a Pole who was 12-years old when he was taken to Auschwitz, said the images of Ukrainians fleeing Russia’s invasion last February reminded him of traumatic experiences he endured as a child.
One image of girl holding her mother’s hand while clutching a teddy bear in the other drew images of himself on a train headed for the concentration camp.
“It was literally a blow to the head for me because I suddenly saw, after almost 80 years, what I had seen in a freight car when I was being transported to Auschwitz. A little girl was sitting next to me, hugging a doll to her chest,” Bartnikowski, now 91, said.
Ceremonies have been planned around Europe Friday in honor of Holocaust Memorial Day.
By Caitlin McFall