70th anniversary of Auschwitz liberation: A look back through Churchill’s eyes

On January 27, 1945, the concentration camps of Auschwitz were liberated from Nazi control. Today, hundreds of Auschwitz survivors attended a ceremony in southern Poland to commemorate 70 years since liberation.

In 2007, Michael Smerconish discussed his own visit to Auschwitz with Sir Martin Gilbert, historian, author of Auschwitz and The Allies and official biographer of Winston Churchill. Sir Gilbert talked about Churchill’s role in responding to the crisis in Nazi Germany, both personally and as Britain’s Prime Minister.

“Churchill spent pretty much 80 percent of his waking day dealing with the war. And Roosevelt spent about a third of that time, in terms of actual time. He probably spent four hours, whereas, Churchill spent 12 hours [per day],” Sir Gilbert said.

And even on Holocaust Remembrance Day, Smerconish and Sir Gilbert cited Holocaust denial and debated as to how best to keep these oftentimes uncomfortable conversations going.

“Free speech is tremendously important in our society, and debate and argument – I’m all for that. I’m [also] all for every Holocaust denier being able to speak in a forum where there’s someone who is going to challenge him or her. But at the same time, countries like Poland know that Holocaust denial, anti-Semitism, racism take on a life of their own if they’re not challenged,” Sir Gilbert said.

“I think the key word is ‘dialogue.’ I am totally in favor of every Holocaust denier being able to speak provided he or she allows there to be a dialogue.”

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