Last week, representatives from more than three dozen countries travelled to Israel to attend the World Holocaust Forum at the Yad Vashem Memorial, including a delegation from Borussia Dortmund. Today on 27 January, international attention was focused on Auschwitz Birkenau and commemorations to mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the German concentration camp by the Red Army.
Around 200 Shoa survivors and a total of 3000 participants from over 50 countries were present. The German delegation was led by Germany’s President Frank-Walter Steinmeier.
Committed to the fight against anti-Semitism and discrimination of all kinds for more than twelve years, Borussia Dortmund was also invited and represented in Poland among others by Hans-Joachim Watzke (Chairman of the Management Board) and Daniel Lörcher (Head of Corporate Responsibility).
In the morning, the BVB delegation visited the Monowitz camp (Auschwitz III), which was the first to be liberated on 27 January 1945. In the afternoon, the Borusse took part in the official commemoration ceremony which ran for several hours in a tent in front of the facade of the notorious entrance gate to Birkenau death camp, through which the trains with the deported Jews on board had once driven along to the selection ramp.
Four elderly Auschwitz survivors spoke, and Poland's President Andrzej Duda and his Israeli counterpart Reuven Rivlin also gave emotional speeches. Duda urged guests to make a joint commitment in front of the remaining survivors and eyewitnesses to "carry the message and warning for humanity that emanates from this place into the future."
"Auschwitz is the cruel symbol of the Holocaust. It is our never-ending task to raise our voices against all forms of racism and anti-Semitism and to keep alive the memory of the incomprehensible," stressed a visibly moved Hans-Joachim Watzke after the commemoration. Daniel Lörcher added: "Every single survivor is a miracle. Hearing their voices here in Auschwitz, looking into their faces and following their eyewitness accounts was both frightening and moving at the same time."
Auschwitz is considered a symbol of the industrial mass murder of European Jews by the National Socialists. On January 27, 1945, the Russian army found about 7,000 surviving prisoners there. Up until that day, more than 1.1 million people had been murdered in Auschwitz alone.
"We want the next generation to know what we've been through, and it should never happen again," said 91-year-old survivor David Marks during a tour of the base camp. Marks had lost 35 relatives after they had all been deported from their Romanian village to Auschwitz: "A dictator does not arrive from one day to the next," he said admonishingly, stressing that this was done in "micro steps." If we are unable to see it, one day you wake up and it's too late."
For many years, Borussia Dortmund has been committed to the motto "Borussia connects! Remembering together. Together against anti-Semitism" through educational trips, workshops and other projects with fans, employees, partners and sponsors. As a consequence of its many years of activities in this field, which have been scientifically backed, BVB also supported the construction of an extension building in the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem last April.