Wednesday is International Holocaust Remembrance Day, marking the 71st anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz camp in southern Poland. About 1.5 million men, women and children — mostly Jewish, but also Roma, Russians and Poles — were killed by the Nazis there during World War II.
At Auschwitz, dozens of Holocaust survivors lit candles and placed wreaths at a wall, where many prisoners were executed, before attending a ceremony with the presidents of Poland and Croatia.
Ceremonies and observations were also held in Germany and Serbia, among other countries.
In Washington, President Barack Obama will join Jewish leaders for a ceremony at the Israeli Embassy, where four people who risked their lives to protect Jews during the Holocaust will be honored posthumously with the Righteous Among the Nations medals.
Righteous Among the Nations is an official title awarded by Yad Vashem, a Jerusalem-based Holocaust education and research center, on behalf of Israel and the Jewish people to non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust.
This will be the first time the ceremony is being held in the United States. Ron Dermer, Israel's ambassador to the U.S., said Obama's participation "will be a worthy tribute to the worthiest among us."
Americans Roddie Edmonds of Tennessee and Lois Gunden of Goshen, Indiana, will be honored, along with Polish citizens Walery and Maryla Zbijewski of Warsaw.
Master Sergeant Edmonds participated in the landing of U.S. forces in Europe and was taken prisoner by the Germans. When the Germans ordered all Jewish prisoners of war to report, Edmonds defied the order by figuring out how to keep the Jewish POWs from being singled out for persecution.
Gunden, a French teacher, established a children's home in southern France that became a safe haven for children, including Jewish children she helped smuggle out of a nearby internment camp. She protected the children when French police showed up at the home.
The Zbijewskis hid a Jewish child in their Warsaw home until the girl's mother could take her back.
Israel marks its own Holocaust Remembrance Day, which this year will be held May 4. Six million Jews died in the Holocaust.
Some information for this report came from AP.