BRUSSELS — European Union lawmakers will observe a minute’s silence Thursday and welcome a centenarian Holocaust survivor as the world remembers Nazi atrocities and commemorates the 77th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp.
Margot Friedlander will address the EU Parliament as part of the commemorations of International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
The U.N. General Assembly adopted a resolution in November 2005 establishing the annual commemoration, and chose Jan. 27 — the day that Auschwitz-Birkenau was liberated by Soviet troops in 1945.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, many International Holocaust Remembrance Day commemorations Thursday will be held online this year again. A small ceremony, however, will take place at the site of the former Auschwitz death camp, where World War II Nazi German forces killed 1.1 million people in occupied Poland. The memorial site was closed earlier in the pandemic but reopened in June.
In all, about 6 million European Jews and millions of other people were killed by the Nazis and their collaborators during the Holocaust. Some 1.5 million were children.
The 100-year-old Friedlander was arrested in 1944 while on the run and brought to the Theresienstadt concentration camp in what is now the Czech Republic. A year before, her mother and brother were deported to Auschwitz, where they were both killed.
Friedlander and her husband immigrated to the U.S. in 1946 and returned to Berlin in 2010. She has since been traveling around Germany to tell the story of her life and promote remembrance.
Charles Michel, the head of the EU Council bringing together leaders of the 27 EU member countries, insisted on the importance of commemorating the Shoah as the number of survivors diminishes every year.
“With each passing year, the Shoah inches towards becoming a historical event,” Michel said. “More and more distant, more and more abstract. Especially in the eyes of the younger generations of Europeans. This is why, paradoxically, the more the years go by, the more important the commemoration becomes. The more essential.”
Commemorations are taking place amid a rise of antisemitism that gained traction during lockdowns as the pandemic exacerbated hatred online.
To tackle Holocaust denial, UNESCO and the World Jewish Congress launched a partnership Thursday with the online platform TikTok popular with youngsters. They say it will allow users to be oriented toward verified information when searching for terms related to the Shoah.
According to the U.N., 17 percent of content related to the Holocaust on TikTok either denied or distorted the Holocaust.
“Denying, distorting or trivializing the true facts of the Holocaust is a pernicious form of contemporary antisemitism,” said UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay. “All online platforms must take responsibility for the spread of hate speech by promoting reliable sources of information.”