Holocaust victims remembered in Helsinki - three survivors among guests of honour
Lilly Millner survived Kaunas ghetto and Nazi concentration camp
Three remaining Finnish survivors of the Nazi concentration camps were the guests of honour at Thursday's Holocaust memorial gathering at the University of Helsinki's Main Hall.
Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen (Centre) was one of the guest speakers at the event, organised by the Finnish arm of Yad Vashem, The Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority.
"I believe human beings are actually incredibly strong. Still, in the Stutthof camp I often felt as if I didn't have any strength left in me. I lay in my sickbed for long periods of time, but apparently my number wasn't up yet."
This is how Mrs Lilly Millner describes her survival, first from the Kaunas ghetto in Lithuania, and then from a concentration camp in Germany.
She is one of the three remaining Finnish Jews who survived the Nazi concentration camp horrors during World War II.
Mrs Millner, together with Mrs Nenne Kafka and Mr Mayer Franck (see linked article), were the guests of honour at Thursday's Holocaust memorial gathering organised at the University of Helsinki premises.
"I am naturally an optimistic person, but in that camp there was little to smile about. Apathy was the prevailing mood for us all. We saw death on a daily basis", Millner recalls.
Mayer Franck, the last surviving Auschwitz inmate living in Finland, now visits schools telling the pupils about his survival, for which work he received special thanks from Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen.
"It must be the most powerful way of passing on information of what happened", Vanhanen noted.
"The school system and the society as a whole bear the responsibility of not letting the past be forgotten."
In the Prime Minister's view, the defining of the norms for human rights, as well as the birth of the United Nations are the two most significant success stories of the post-WWII era.
The role of international organisations in crisis situations should be advanced, he said.
"The European Union, for its part, has taken up this challenge. It is important to discuss what possibilities the Union, and countries like Finland, might have in preventing future possible genocides", Vanhanen says.
Thursday marked the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz extermination camp, where more than a million were put to death.
Towards the end of the war, Auschwitz, which was situated near the Polish city of Oswiecim, was the biggest concentration and death camp run by the Nazis, and the most fatal of destinations for its inmates.
Yesterday's memorial gathering was organised by the Finnish arm of the Yad Vashem organisation originating from Jerusalem. Yad Vashem is a politically and religiously non-allied organisation, which opposes anti-Semitism and other forms of racism.
In Finland, Yad Vashem, in cooperation with the Ministry of Education, publishes an Internet site www.holocaustinfo.org, which contains information about the atrocities perpetrated during World War II.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Lest we forget... Auschwitz +60 (25.1.2005)
Yad Vashem - Holocaust Info (in Finnish)