Auschwitz was opened by the Nazis in 1940 and remained operational until the end of World War II. It was the largest concentration camp, where around 1.4 million people were killed before it was liberated by the Soviet Army in January 1945. The site of the former camp was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1979. It is now a symbol of the Holocaust.
The event, hosted by Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Centre, is organized by the World Holocaust Forum Foundation, established in 2005 after the First International Holocaust Forum in the Polish capital of Krakow. The foundation aims to combat the rise of antisemitism across the globe, as well as racism, xenophobia, and other forms of intolerance and bigotry.
This year's forum will be held under the motto "Remembering the Holocaust: Fighting Antisemitism."
The forum will begin at about 13:10 with an address by Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, while the memorial ceremony will start at 15:10 with Holocaust survivors Rose Moskowitz and Colette Avital lighting a memorial torch followed by the heads of delegations laying wreaths at the monument to the Warsaw Ghetto uprising at the World Holocaust Remembrance Center.
The foundation lists 47 high-ranking officials, with Russian President Vladimir Putin, French President Emmanuel Macron, Italian President Sergio Mattarella, US Vice President Michael Pence, President of Germany Frank-Walter Steinmeier among the forum's participants. The Russian president is scheduled to speak at the event.
According to Kremlin aide Yury Ushakov, Putin had to cut his visit to Israel to one day due to the recent change of Russia's government, with the Israeli authorities showing full understanding. This, however, will not present an issue as all key events of the forum are scheduled for Thursday.
Prior to the forum, the world leaders wrote letters expressing their deep and ardent commitment to keep the memory of the Holocaust alive as well as fight antisemitism. Their statements have been gathered into a book that will be presented to the forum's participants.
The Holocaust refers to the period from 1933, when Adolf Hitler assumed the position of German chancellor, to 1945, the year the Second World War ended. It involves the mass persecution and murder of German and European Jewry, culminating in the ethnic cleansing program dubbed as the "Final Solution to the Jewish Question,’" which involved Jews being relocated to ghettos, concentration and extermination camps where they were either murdered or died from malnutrition, disease, hunger, and inhumane treatment. Six million Jews died over the course of that tragic period.