This evening, which took place in one of the most prestigious auditoriums of Russia’s capital, was attended by prominent public figures, ministers, diplomats, the leadership of the Russian Federation Archive Service and former ghetto prisoners and war veterans. The diplomatic corps was represented by Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Ambassadors of Austria, Germany, Israel, Poland and Turkey; Envoys Extraordinary and Ministers Plenipotentiary of the Netherlands, Austria and Latvia; and diplomats from Hungary, Italy, Lithuania and the USA. At least one-third of the participants in this event was made up of over 150 schoolchildren and students from 30 Moscow schools and universities and their teachers, who sat near quite a colorful group of young people dressed in the uniforms of the Israel Defense Force. An exhibition devoted to Anne Frank, courtesy of the Dutch Anne Frank Foundation (Anne’s father, Otto Frank, was one of the 258 Jews freed in Auschwitz), was on display in the foyer.
The evening began with a Kadish prayer performed by the Moscow Male Jewish Choir Hasidic Cappella directed by AlexanderTsaluk. This was followed by the appeal to the audience from Alla Gerber, president of the Holocaust Foundation and member of the RF Public Chamber and host of the Commemorative Evening, to hold a one-minute silence to in memory of the victims of the Holocaust and warriors-liberators.
The RF Minister of Culture, Alexander Avdeyev, noted that Nazi camps became symbols of “the gravest crimes against humanity committed by the fascists and, at the same time, of the largeness and the will to live of the prisoners”.
According to Mikhail Shvydkoi, Russian President's Special Representative for International Cultural Cooperation, Auschwitz may be compared with a crucifixion that takes place in the people’s souls and hearts.
Sergei Melnikov, deputy head of the Humanitarian Policy and Public Relations Department at the RF President Internal Policy Directorate, read the message of the head of the Presidential Executive Office, Sergei Naryshkin, addressed to the audience.Israeli Ambassador to Russia Anna Azari spoke about the Germans suffering from the post-traumatic effect of genocide. She also noted: “Although such a trauma does not even entail and post-trauma”.
The Polish and German ambassadors also spoke at the Commemorative Evening.
The only living Jewish survivor of Auschwitz, Anatoly Vanukevich, who lives in Moscow, shared his memories about the death camp and was greeted by a standing ovation. The daughters of Meier Lay, the former Chief Israeli Rabbi and the present chairman of the Yad Vashem Museum’s Council, Julia and Elena, related the story of their father being saved in Bukhenvald by Fyodor Mikhailichenko, a Soviet prisoner from Rostov-on-Don. They were also greeted by an ovation.
The evening was concluded by the prize-awarding ceremony of the Annual International Contest “Lessons of the Holocaust – Path to Tolerance” of works created by teachers, students and schoolchildren. Schoolchildren who became the winners of this contest were invited to the annual Tenth Conference in Brest and the teachers who won it attended a seminar in Yad Vashem. Ilya Altman and Alexander Gorelik, director of the UN Information Center in Russia, informed the students, winners in the contest, that they were invited to UNESCO Headquarters in Paris. E.Mushtavinskaya, graduate of Hertsen RGPU, spoke on behalf of the contest participants. This contest and the prize-awarding ceremony became possible thanks to government funding provided in the form of a grant in accordance with RF President Order #160-rp of March 16, 2009.Unique documentaries about the liberation of ghettos and Nazi camps in the former Soviet Union and Europe in 1941-1945 by Soviet troops were shown at this commemorative event.
At the end of the evening, the Hasidic Cappella sang the famous Victory Day song.
The preparations for the memorial evening and the event itself were covered by over 20 mass media outlets from Russia and other countries, including leading news agencies such as ITAR-TASS, Interfax and RIA-Novosti (including the TV bridge Russia-Israel aired on January 28), Reuters and France Press; TV channels TVC, Culture, Fifth (St.Petersburg), RUSSIA Today (English, Spanish and Arabian Departments) and Zvezda; German Television; the Russian Services of BBC, Radio Svoboda and Radio France; the radio stations Echo of Moscow and the Russian News Service; the newspapers Izvestiya, Moskovsky Komsomolets and Tribuna; the magazines Kommersant-Vlast, Russian Newsweek and many others.