At Auschwitz Ceremony: Grandson of Nazi Boss

Survivors to mark 70th anniversary of liberation on Holocaust Remembrance Day
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 26, 2015 10:15 AM CST
At Auschwitz Ceremony: Grandson of Nazi Boss
Rainer Hoess talks with survivor Eva Kor just before the showing of the documentary "Hitler's Children," Oct.1 2014, on the Indiana State University campus in Terre Haute Ind.   (APPhoto/Tribune-Star, Jim Avelis)

(Newser) – Tomorrow, survivors will mark the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, and among the speakers will be Rainer Hoess, the grandson of the camp's infamous commandant Rudolf Hoess. The younger Hoess has devoted his life to educating people about the horrors his grandfather perpetrated. "I know my heritage. I can’t change it," he tells the Wall Street Journal. “It’s more effective to use the name and show that the idea that evil is in the blood—these things the Nazis said—is wrong." Hoess speaks at some 70 schools each year, and he has met with survivors; he's gotten their camp numbers, as well as a Star of David, tattooed on his body. Not everyone approves of his work, with some accusing him of using his name for financial gain. "I don’t want to have any connection to this criminal," an Israeli journalist and grandson of survivors tells the Journal.

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Tomorrow, Hoess will visit the camp, where survivors will also gather; the Journal puts the number at 300, while USA Today expects 100. "It will be very difficult, but it is important," says Renee Ganz, who is returning to Auschwitz for the first time since she was sent there at age 15, USA Today reports. Health specialists will be on hand to help survivors with the "emotionally powerful and physically taxing" experience, says the World Jewish Congress. "This may be the last major anniversary we will be able to remember with those who experienced the Holocaust firsthand. From this historic event, their voices will echo across the generations," says the group's secretary general. Some 1.1 million people died at Auschwitz; 90% were Jews, while others included homosexuals, Christian Poles, and Romani, USA Today notes. (Read more Auschwitz stories.)

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