One of the world’s most prominent Jewish leaders warned on Sunday that just 70 years after the Holocaust, the world is “descending into the same, dangerous [purgatory] where we found ourselves before.”
Speaking at the 70th anniversary ceremony for the liberation of Bergen-Belsen at the Bergen-Belsen Memorial, Anne-Frank-Platz, Lohheide, Germany, World Jewish Congress (WJC) President Ronald S. Lauder praised Jewish resilience following the slaughter of six million Jews at the hands of the Nazis and their collaborators.
“From the ashes of this terrible place, the Jewish people rose up and moved on,” he said. “But tragically,” he warned, “seventy years later, the world is not moving on; it is moving backward.”
“Today, seventy years after this camp was liberated, we hear the same antisemitic lies. Today, a Jewish boy wearing a yarmulke cannot walk down the street in Paris or London or Copenhagen without fearing for his life,” Lauder said further. “Right wing neo-Nazi groups are winning seats in Parliament in Hungary and Greece. Iranian leaders repeatedly promise to wipe Israel from the pages of time.”
More than 100 survivors of Bergen-Belsen, children born at the post-war displaced persons (DP) camp at Bergen-Belsen, and British liberators returned to Lower Saxony to participate in Sunday’s ceremony, according to the WJC.
The WJC chief said that there were few countries that didn’t bear some culpability for the crime of the Holocaust and even singled out the United States for shutting its doors “to Jews desperately trying to leave.”
“We know the perpetrators – but they were not just Germans and Austrians. There was complicity in practically every country in Europe,” he said.
Lauder also praised Jewish contributions to society and chided antisemites for their destructive impact.
“The fact is, wherever Jews are allowed to live freely, those countries prosper,” he said. “Jews win Nobel prizes. Jews cure diseases. Jews build. They don’t tear down! Anti-Semites tear down. Anti-Semites destroy. They create nothing. They save no one.”
During World War II, the concentration camp at Bergen-Belsen became one of the most notorious Nazi camps where more than 50,000 people were murdered. The British 11th Armored Division liberated the camp in April 1945. A Displaced Persons camp – the largest in post-war Germany – was later established nearby. It was closed in September 1950. An estimated 2,000 children were born to Holocaust survivors at the Bergen-Belsen DP camp.