Zelenskiy marks Auschwitz anniversary honoring survivors

International

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, shake hands during their meeting in Jerusalem, Friday, Jan. 24, 2020. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty,pool)

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KRAKOW, Poland (AP) — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy paid tribute Sunday evening to Holocaust survivors, telling them on the eve of the 75th anniversary of the death camp’s liberation that they are an example to humanity.

Zelenskiy spoke of the importance of protecting humanitarian values and freedom against the hatred that threatens civilization in a short speech at a dinner in Krakow organized by the World Jewish Congress. He received a standing ovation for his words.

“You are truly amazing. You are strong and incredibly courageous. So you are an example that we should follow,” he said through an interpreter. “The Holocaust is named the dark period in the history of humanity. And you are the rays of sunshine that penetrated the darkness.”

Zelenskiy, who is of Jewish descent and has family members who perished in the Holocaust, is to attend commemorations Monday at the site of the Auschwitz-Birkenau former death camp, where 1.1 million people were murdered by Nazi German forces. Most of the victims were Jews.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is also expected to attend commemorations, but didn’t attend the dinner. A small lower-level delegation of U.S. officials arrived at the dinner after Zelenskiy spoke.

“Hatred needs to be done away with. It needs to be uprooted. We need to get rid of hatred because this is the single greatest power that is ruining our civilization,” Zelenskiy said. “We need to stand guard and protect humanism and freedom. We must stop evil before it actually threatens humanity.”

He also paid tribute to the Ukrainian gentiles who risked their own lives to save Jews, calling them a source of pride.

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See all of AP’s coverage of the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz at https://apnews.com/Auschwitz

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