Around 300 survivors of the Auschwitz death camp were gathering on Tuesday to mark 70 years since its liberation by soviet troops, joined by world leaders for a commemoration held in the shadow of war in Ukraine and a rise in anti-Semitism in Europe.
Tuesday's gathering in southern Poland marks perhaps the last major anniversary that survivors of the Nazi German camp will be able to attend in numbers, given the youngest are now in their 70s. Some 1,500 attended the 60th anniversary.
Around 1.5 million people, mainly European Jews, were gassed, shot, hanged and burned at the camp in southern Poland during world war two, before the red army entered its gates in winter 1945. It has become probably the most poignant symbol of a holocaust that claimed six million Jewish lives across Europe.
Edmore Perez Hamandishe Maramwidze, of the Lemba people of Zimbabwe and northern South Africa, who have traced their roots back to Israel, said he along with other Lemba people sympathize with victims and survivors of the Holocaust.
According to Maramwidze, the Lemba people of Zimbabwe and northern South Africa are direct descendants of Jews who fled Israel about 2,500 years ago. This claim which has been backed up by DNA carried out by British scientists, which confirmed their Semitic origin.
“They came from a place called Lemba, which you can check an old, old map of Israel, we came from there because of Erza in the Bible,” said Maramwidze.
The Lemba are said to have fled Israel settling in modern Yemen, then traveling to Mozambique and then central Zimbabwe and South Africa.
Maramwidze, who is a Messianic Jewish pastor and former Gutu North Member of Parliament for the Movement for Democratic Change formation led by Morgan Tsvangirai, said Tuesday is a day to reflect on the Holocaust and what occurred during that era.
“We are also attached to what happened to the Jews in Europe, in Russia, in Poland and all those places. We are attached to that; it’s just that wherever a Jew is he suffers persecution, they face a lot of persecution because they are in a foreign land."
Though some of the Lemba are now Christians or some Muslims, many carry their Jewish traditions. In Zimbabwe, practicing Lemba can be found throughout the country including Harare, Bulawayo, Gutu and Mberengwa among other areas.