- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 27, 2005

From combined dispatches

OSWIECIM, Poland — Joining with 30 heads of state in commemoration of the Holocaust, Vice President Dick Cheney declared yesterday that the mass murder that went unanswered until Nazi death camps were liberated 60 years ago is a reminder that evil must be challenged in the world today.

“The story of the camps remind us that evil is real and must be called by its name and must be confronted,” Mr. Cheney said at a forum in Krakow, where he spoke before attending an anniversary program at the former concentration camps here. “We are reminded that anti-Semitism may begin with words but rarely stops with words and the message of intolerance and hatred must be opposed before it turns into acts of horror.”

While he didn’t draw the comparison directly, Mr. Cheney’s message melded with the theme of President Bush’s Inauguration Day speech about freedom versus tyranny as well as one of his previous State of the Union addresses when he called Iraq, North Korea and Iran the “axis of evil.”

Within sight of the ruins of crematoria, Mr. Cheney listened as dignitaries, heads of state, and religious leaders from all faiths spoke solemnly about the large number of deaths at Auschwitz and Birkenau, the larger of the two camps.

Candles were lit along the snow-covered rail tracks used during the war to take Jews and others in cattle trains to the camp, where many were gassed on arrival.

Elderly survivors, many accompanied by younger relatives, and some wrapped in blankets to keep warm, walked slowly past the rusting barbed-wire fences under a dark gray sky and heavily falling snow toward a monument to the victims.

Pope John Paul II in a message to participants said yesterday that the Nazi bid to exterminate the Jewish people had forever darkened the history of mankind and left a “shadow on the history of Europe.”

“There must be no yielding to ideologies which justify contempt for human dignity on the basis of race, color, language or religion,” he said in a message read out by the papal nuncio in Poland, Jozef Kowalczyk. “I make this appeal to everyone, and particularly to those who would resort, in the name of religion, to acts of oppression and terrorism.”

British Prime Minister Tony Blair warned that the Holocaust began with small acts of hatred.

“The Holocaust did not start with a concentration camp. It started with a brick through the shop window of a Jewish business, the desecration of a synagogue, the shout of racist abuse on the street,” he said.

Aging Holocaust survivors, some wearing tags displaying their prison number, huddled under blankets at the outdoor ceremony to ward off heavy, blowing snow and freezing temperatures. Mr. Cheney, wearing a heavy olive parka with a white fur-edged hood, sat between his wife, Lynne, and Israel’s president, Moshe Katsav, who in his remarks, delivered in Hebrew, said, “It seems as if we can still hear the dead crying out.”

The Soviet Army freed prisoners at the camps on Jan. 27, 1945 as the war neared its end. Between 1 million and 1.5 million prisoners — most of them Jews — perished in gas chambers or died of starvation and disease at Auschwitz. Overall, 6 million Jews were killed in the Holocaust.

Mr. Cheney reminded his listeners, many of them young people, that the cruelty of the death camps did not happen in a faraway corner of the world, but in the “very heart of the civilized world.”

“The death camps were created by men with a high opinion of themselves — some of them well-educated and possessed of refined manners — but without conscience,” he said. “And where there is no conscience, there is no tolerance toward others … no defense against evil … and no limit to the crimes that follow.”

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