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Polish, Israeli Presidents Commemorate Uprising in Warsaw Ghetto - 2003-04-30


The presidents of Israel and Poland have marked the 60th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising in ceremonies in the Polish capital. The two men also led thousands of people in a commemorative walk at the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp. Israeli President Moshe Katzav and Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski participated in ceremonies to remember the few hundred young Jews who began an uprising against the Nazis on April 19, 1943.

Armed with only home-made explosives and other simple weapons, their fighting lasted three weeks.

The two presidents also led the silent three-kilometer "March of the Living" from the Auschwitz barracks to the remains of the Birkenau crematoria, where more than one million Jews were exterminated by the Nazis.

Birkenau housed three gas chambers and crematoria, which the Nazis kept going 24 hours a day as a death factory, until they blew them up ahead of the arrival of advancing Soviet troops.

The route to the site is retraced every year by youngsters and elderly survivors from around the world to remember all six million Jews killed in the Holocaust, including three million from Poland, which had Europe's largest Jewish community. The Nazis also killed millions of people from other groups, including communists, homosexuals, and Roma, also known as gypsies.

Since the collapse of Communism, Poland and other former Soviet satellite states have increasingly tried to end decades of denial and to cope with their controversial past.

Polish President Kwasniewski said he agrees with his Israeli counterpart that the Holocaust must never be forgotten.