Ambassador of Israel Zvi Rav-Ner (R) and Klezmer musician Leopold Kozlowski (L) during commemorations on Ghetto Heroes Square (Plac Bohaterow Ghetta) prior to Sunday's march: photo - PAP/Jacek Bednarczyk
“The international community has to do everything not to allow the denial of the Holocaust,” Ambassador Zvi Rav-Ner told Polish Radio English Section's Krakow correspondent.
“Unfortunately, there is a growing voice of denial, including by some leaders, by the president of Iran for instance, and others, who are saying that this never happened, that this is all fantasy,” he said.
“So it is important therefore that so many people are here to identify [with us today],” he added.
Several hundred joined Sunday's procession, an annual event that follows the path of Jews who were marched to the forced labour camp at Plaszow, on the southern fringe of Krakow, in March 1943.
Prior to the war, Krakow's Jewish community numbered over 60,000, making up a quarter of the city's populace.
The occupying Nazi Germans deported over 40,000 Jews from the city between May 1940 and February 1941. In March 1941, the remaining Jews were forced into a ghetto in the Podgorze district on the southern bank of the River Vistula.
Two years later, from 13 -14 March 1943, the ghetto was liquidated. About 6000 Jews deemed fit for work were marched to the Plaszow camp. The following day, the remainder were either shot on the spot or transported by train to the Auschwitz death camp.
It is estimated that only 5 to 8 percent of Krakow's pre-war Jewish population survived the Holocaust (3000-5000), and most emigrated following the war.
During a speech prior to Sunday's march of remembrance, Mayor of Krakow Jacek Majchrowski stressed the role that Jews had played in the city over seven centuries.
“We have a duty to remember them and their contributions to our city,” he said.
Meanwhile, a remodelled branch of the city's historical museum reopened over the weekend, exploring the role played by Tadeusz Pankiewicz, a Polish Catholic chemist who had managed to continue his practice within the ghetto.
The aid Pankiewicz gave to Jews resulted in him being honoured as a Righteous Gentile in 1986 by Israel's Yad Vashem Institute.
“You can see that in the darkest of times there were some people who tried their very best to be as human as possible... which gives hope,” Ambassador Zvi Rav-Ner said.
Likewise, the ambassador highlighted the renaissance of Jewish life in the city since the collapse of communism in 1989.
“Let's put it this way, the German Nazis have eventually not succeeded,” he said.
“Because we are here - the Jews of Krakow are here.
“Right, it's a small community. It's nothing compared to the size of what it was before the war, before the Holocaust. But they are here.
“It's a vivid community,” he said. (nh/pg)