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Last Updated: Tuesday, 25 January, 2005, 14:22 GMT
Schroeder deplores Auschwitz evil
The Nazis murdered six million Jews and many others
German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has called for vigilance to counter anti-Semitism as the world remembers the Nazi crimes committed at Auschwitz.

"The overwhelming majority of Germans living today do not bear guilt for the Holocaust. But they do bear a special responsibility," he said.

Germans have a duty "to be vigilant, not to look away," he told a gathering in Berlin, among them camp survivors.

Thursday is the 60th anniversary of the Auschwitz death camp liberation.

Six million Jews were exterminated in the Holocaust. Millions of others - mostly Poles, Roma (Gypsies), Soviet prisoners and homosexuals - were used as slave labour in appalling conditions and many of them died.

The UN General Assembly held a session on Monday to mark the liberation anniversary.

Nazi popularity

Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder speaks at Berlin commemoration
The overwhelming majority of Germans living today do not bear guilt for the Holocaust. But they do bear a special responsibility
Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder

Mr Schroeder said the evil of the Holocaust could not simply be blamed on the "demon Hitler" and reminded Germans that ordinary people had supported the Nazis.

"The evil of Nazi ideology did not come from nowhere. There was definitely a process that led up to the brutalisation of thought and the loss of moral inhibitions.

"But above all, Nazi ideology was wanted by humans and made by humans."

He expressed his shame for the suffering at Auschwitz and elsewhere inflicted by the Nazis.

"It is the common duty of all democrats to confront the offensive agitation of the neo-Nazis and their continuing attempts to minimise Nazi crimes," he told the gathering at Berlin's German Theatre, organised by the International Auschwitz Committee.

"No strong democracy should tolerate the enemies of democracy and tolerance."

Remembering victims

Germany's national Holocaust memorial, next to Berlin's Brandenburg Gate, is due to open in May, and Mr Schroeder said it would be "a signal against forgetting".

"That there is still anti-Semitism cannot be denied. It is the duty of all society to fight against it."

On Monday UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said the United Nations - founded shortly after the end of World War II - must do everything in its power to prevent a repeat of the slaughter undertaken by Nazi Germany.

"We rightly say, 'Never again'. But action is much harder," he told the UN.

"The world has, to its shame, failed more than once to prevent or halt genocide - for instance in Cambodia, in Rwanda, and in the former Yugoslavia," he said.

Survivor Esther Brunstein's return to Auschwitz

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