Holocaust Memorial Day: Steven Spielberg tells survivors that Jews face growing anti-Semitism on eve of Auschwitz commemoration

He spoke as 300 survivors prepared to mark the 70th anniversary of Auschwitz liberation

The director Steven Spielberg told a group of Holocaust survivors that Jews were again facing a growing wave of anti-semitism from people who were provoking hate crimes.

Speaking to dozens of people people gathered in Krakow on the eve of an official memorial service to mark the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, Mr Spielberg warned that Jews were threatened by “the perennial demons of intolerance”.

His words followed the attack on a kosher supermarket in Paris by Islamic extremists who carried out the Charlie Hebdo attacks

Mr Spielberg, 68, said there were now pages on social media that identified Jews and their geographic locations with the intention of attacking them, and a growing effort to banish Jews from Europe. “These people want to all over again strip you of your past, of your story and of your identity,” he said, according to the Associated Press.

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Around 300 survivors of the concentration camp, located in Poland and which was liberated by Soviet troops, are on Tuesday due to gather with leaders from around the world Tuesday to remember the 1.1m people killed at Auschwitz-Birkenau and the millions of others killed in the Holocaust.

 

Leaders expected include the presidents of Germany and Austria, while the US is sending a delegation led by Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, who is an Orthodox Jew. Mr Lew’s family left Poland before World War II.

Mr Spielberg, the Oscar-winning director of the 1993 Holocaust film Schindler's List, was introduced by an 81-year-old survivor, Paula Lebovics, who praised him as “a man who has given us a voice in history”.

During his short speech, Mr Spielberg spoke of how his own Jewish identity evolved, first as a boy learning to read numbers from the numbers tattooed on the arms of survivors, and as an adult when he filmed Schindler's List in Krakow.

Earlier in the day some of the survivors travelled an hour and a half by bus from Krakow to Oswiecim, the town where the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum is located. There they prayed for their murdered loved ones amid the barracks and barbed wire of the former Nazi death camp.

Rose Schindler, 85, who was one of 12 survivors from a family of more than 300 people, returned once 20 years ago but said she wanted a final visit to mourn her parents and four siblings who were killed in the Holocaust. She was separated from them upon arrival in Auschwitz with no time to say goodbye and survived because she was selected to do slave labour.

“I have no graves for my mother and sisters and brother, my father. So this somehow is a way to say goodbye,” she told the Associated Press.

Mordechai Ronen, an 82-year-old survivor from Hungary who now lives in Canada, had made the trip reluctantly and said he was not sure he had the strength to handle it emotionally. After the survivors prayed in Hebrew he cried out, “I don't want to come here anymore”.

The concentration camp was liberated by the Soviet army on January 27 1945, in the last months of the war. The Soviet advance from the east forced the Nazis to retreat from occupied eastern Europe to Germany and they took many of their prisoners to kill along the way. However, they left several thousand behind, among them children and prisoners close to death.