Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Tears of Joy, Bitterness Over Anti-Semitism

Elderly Holocaust survivors, Jewish leaders and Red Army veterans gathered Thursday in Moscow to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz with what they called mixed feelings -- tears of joy over the Nazi defeat but bitterness over the persistent anti-Semitism in Russia.

"There are only a few Auschwitz survivors still alive today -- most of them didn't live to hear our lawmakers asking to ban all Jewish organizations," Aron Zusman, head of Ruf, a union of Jewish prisoners of Nazi camps, said bitterly.

Zusman was referring to a recent appeal by 19 State Duma deputies for an investigation aimed at outlawing all Jewish organizations.

"This means that our train leaves for Auschwitz -- today and every day," said Matvei Geizer, a 64-year-old Holocaust survivor who was 4 years old when Red Army soldiers freed him and his family from a Jewish ghetto in Kiev in 1944.

"We were saved by the Red Army soldiers, and although I was only 4, I can remember their faces so vividly that I would recognize them on the street," said Geizer, whose father had died in the ghetto. Only 12,000 to 16,000 out of the ghetto's 50,000 inhabitants survived.

Geizer recalled how his grandfather took him to a grave of some 300 ghetto prisoners who had been executed. "He wanted me to see it with my own eyes and hear with my own ears -- he condemned me to always remembering it," he said.

He lamented the call for the ban, saying that means Russian society has failed to fully condemn the Nazi crimes. "Such things cannot be forgotten," Geizer said.