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Last Updated: Sunday, 17 April, 2005, 15:22 GMT 16:22 UK
Survivors mark camps' liberation
A survivor places a white flower of remembrance at Ravensbruck.
The ceremonies provoked moving acts of remembrance by survivors
Thousands of survivors of three Nazi concentration camps have attended ceremonies in Germany to mark the 60th anniversary of their liberation.

Former prisoners of Ravensbruck, Bergen-Belsen and Sachsenhausen were joined at the camps by world leaders and former servicemen.

Some wore the blue-and-white striped scarves, recalling the camps' uniform.

Tens of thousands of people died in the camps from hunger, disease, exhaustion or medical experiments.

I'm ready to do it because I'm old and the story should be told
Ravensbruck survivor Judith Sherman
Some 300 survivors gathered at Ravensbruck, 100km north of Berlin, at the site of a former Nazi camp for women prisoners.

Among them was 75-year-old Judith Sherman, who brought her two sons and grandchildren, so she could tell them for the first time the story of her struggle to survive "hell".

"I wanted to protect them. I didn't want them to feel sorry for me," said Mrs Sherman, who now lives in New Jersey, US.

Now, she said: "I'm ready to do it because I'm old and the story should be told."

She kept her feelings hidden, but the memories of dead bodies and sickness were never far away, she said.

'Never forget'

Between 1939-1945, some 132,000 women and children, 20,000 men and 1,000 female youths were deported to Ravensbruck. Tens of thousands died from hunger, disease, exhaustion or medical experiments.

Roses are placed on the gates at the entrance to Sachsenhausen, near Berlin.
Survivors have been remembering the liberation at Sachsenhausen
A gas chamber built at the end of 1944 also claimed some 6,000 victims.

After Sunday's speeches, people threw roses into a pond used by the Nazis to dump the ashes of the camp's victims after they had been cremated.

Survivors of Bergen-Belsen, near Hanover in northern Germany, held private ceremonies on Friday to mark their liberation by British troops on 15 April 1945.

A further ceremony was also held on Sunday at the camp, whose victims included diarist Anne Frank, who died of typhus a few weeks before the camp was liberated.

Initially a special camp, for "privileged Jews and POWs, the site became a holding pen for the weak and sick shipped from other camps as the Allies advanced.

"We must never forget and it's something of such importance that the world continues to remember what happened here," said British Lord Chancellor Lord Falconer, who attended Sunday's ceremony.

Many Britons attended a service there, conducted by Reverend Leslie Hardman, a Jewish army chaplain from Hendon, north London.

During the service, survivors recited a psalm and a Kaddish prayer for the dead as they lit candles and laid wreaths.

Survivor Pierette Pierrot, 88, a French resistance fighter captured in 1944, came with her son to the ceremonies.

She was pregnant when she first arrived at Ravensbruck. When the Third Reich crumbled she went to Sweden with her baby.

Tens of thousands of women were not so fortunate and when the Red Army eventually liberated Ravensbruck on 30 April 1945, they found 3,000 sickly prisoners.

The work camps, like the extermination camps in occupied Poland, were places of death.

More than 500 survivors of the notorious Sachsenhausen camp on the outskirts of Berlin attended a ceremony marking its liberation 22 April 1945, also by the Soviet army.

One of the first Nazi concentration camps, it was initially meant mainly for political prisoners, but inmates later included captives from Poland, Soviet and other POWs as well as Jews.

Some 200,000 people were interned there between 1936 and 1945, and tens of thousands died.


SEE ALSO:
Holocaust is remembered in talk
26 Jan 05 |  Norfolk


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