70 MKs will visit Auschwitz next month

Unprecedented delegation to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day at site where nearly a million Jews were killed by Nazis

Main entrance to Auschwitz (CC BY-SA Tulio Bertorini)
Main entrance to Auschwitz (CC BY-SA Tulio Bertorini)

The largest delegation of Israeli lawmakers ever to visit the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp is set to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day at the Polish site next month.

The delegation of some 70 MKs, led by Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, will meet with the Polish parliament in Krakow before visiting the Auschwitz complex for a ceremony commemorating the Holocaust of Europe’s Jews.

In 2005, the United Nations General Assembly set the International Holocaust Remembrance Day as January 27, the day in 1945 on which Soviet troops liberated the camp.

According to the Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth, the MKs will be accompanied by other dignitaries, including State Comptroller Yosef Shapira, Supreme Court Justice Elyakim Rubinstein, Yad Vashem chairman Avner Shalev, scholar Dina Porat and former MKs — and Holocaust survivors — Shevah Weiss and Colette Avital, in addition to some 400 Jewish and other dignitaries from Poland and Russia. The Israeli delegation itself, including security personnel, is expected to number some 300 people in total.

There will also be 30 Holocaust survivors joining the mission. Edelstein reportedly decided to conduct the historic visit in 2014 instead of waiting for the 70th anniversary of the liberation in 2015 due to the fact that with each passing year the number of Holocaust survivors dwindles.

The Israeli delegation will only be in Poland for one day, taking off from Israel in two charter planes in the morning and returning at night.

The visit is being conducted in collaboration with the Polish Jewish philanthropist Sigmund Rolat, 83, who lives in the United States, and From the Depths, a group that works to commemorate the Holocaust.

While the Israeli lawmakers’ travel is being funded by the Knesset at a cost of NIS 400,000 ($115,000), the bill for the ceremony and other expenses in Poland is being footed by the Auschwitz Museum, the Polish government and the country’s parliament.

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