Nations throughout Europe on Thursday marked International Holocaust Remembrance Day, a global event to commemorate the victims of the Holocaust.

The annual commemoration was established by the U.N. General Assembly in November 2005.January 27 was chosen because it was the day in 1945 that the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in Poland was liberated by Soviet troops.  

French Prime Minister Jean Castex was among those taking part in ceremonies at the former World War II German Nazi concentration camp remembering the 1.1 million Jewish people the Nazis put to death there.

In Berlin, the speaker of Israel’s parliament or Knesset, Mickey Levy, joined German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier in laying wreaths at the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe.  

Later, Levy addressed the lower house of Germany’s parliament, the Bundestag, during ceremonies there.  

He broke down in tears while reciting the Jewish mourner’s prayer from a prayer book that belonged to a German Jewish boy who celebrated his bar mitzvah on the eve of Kristallnacht (Night of Broken Glass), when German Nazi paramilitary forces attacked Jewish people and property on the nights of November 9-10, 1938. Shortly after, some 30,000 Jewish men were rounded up and sent to concentration camps.

Levy said Israel and Germany experienced “an exceptional journey on the way to reconciliation and establishing relations and brave friendship.”

Speaking during the same ceremony, Bundestag President Baerbel Bas noted the recent rise of anti-Semitism that she says has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Her comments echoed a report issued this week by the Israeli government that said many of the people protesting COVID-19 measures have likened themselves to Jews under Nazi persecution, which the study said distorts and trivializes the Holocaust.

The authors of the study say such trivializations show that factual knowledge of the genocide is fading and can put Jews today in actual danger. They urged world leaders and educators to be proactive in combating this behavior.

About 6 million European Jews and millions of other people were killed by the Nazis and their collaborators during the Holocaust.

Some information for this story came from The Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse.

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