The International Auschwitz Council on Monday declared that the release of hundreds of hostages abducted by terror group Hamas is an essential step toward ending the war that erupted last month when the terror group launched a devastating attack on Israel.
The council, an advisory body to the Polish prime minister and the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum on the site of the former concentration camp, further said in a statement that Hamas is using Gaza Strip civilians as human shields. It also backed Israel’s assertion that Hamas committed atrocities including rape during the massacre, a claim that some pro-Palestinian activists have tried to dismiss despite evidence supporting the accusations.
“We wish to express our unwavering solidarity with Israelis and Jews worldwide,” the council said in a statement released by the Auschwitz museum.
“An essential first step to halt the horrifying spiral of death and war is the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages, a demand we make with all our might,” it said.
Israel estimates that at least 240 people were seized in the onslaught six weeks ago, when Hamas-led terrorists breached the Gaza border under the cover of heavy rocket fire and killed some 1,200 people — most of them civilians — as they rampaged through southern communities and an outdoor music festival. Entire families were murdered in their homes, women were raped and victims — some of them babies — were tortured and mutilated.
Israel declared war on Hamas in response, launching an aerial campaign and a subsequent ground offensive aimed at toppling the Gaza-ruling terror group and securing the release of the hostages.
The council said it “acknowledges with the deepest pain and sorrow the suffering of innocent victims – tortured, raped, taken hostage, and murdered by Hamas terrorists.”
“The unimaginable hatred and violence perpetrated by terrorists” is only causing more widespread suffering that is “affecting also the civilian population of Gaza, whom Hamas exploits as human shields,” it said.
“Threatened in its existence, the State of Israel has the right to self-defense in accordance with international law and the principles of humanitarianism,” the council said, adding that the “democratic Jewish State is one of the pillars of world peace.”
Several Holocaust survivors and family members of Holocaust victims were either killed by the invading terrorists or taken hostage in Gaza.
Israel has repeatedly said that Hamas is hiding behind civilians and civilian infrastructure in Gaza, including using hospitals as command centers for its forces. The US and the European Union say Hamas is using human shields. As the Israel Defense Forces moves through northern Gaza, it has uncovered and published evidence showing how Hamas embeds its military apparatus in the civilian population.
Police, meanwhile, have begun building sexual assault cases against terrorists, citing eyewitnesses, video evidence, testimony from terrorists and photographs of victims’ bodies that all point toward such offenses.
The International Auschwitz Council was established by Poland in 2000. It is an advisory body to the prime minister on issues related to the preservation and functioning of the Auschwitz site and other Holocaust memorials.
The council is made up of 21 members from Poland, Israel, the United States, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom, who serve six-year terms.
The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry claims that 13,000 people have been killed in Gaza since the start of the war on October 7, including at least 5,500 children and 3,500 women. The figures provided by the terror group cannot be independently verified and do not differentiate between civilians and Hamas operatives.
JTA contributed to this report.