A northern Swedish city has decided to cancel a planned Holocaust Memorial Day torchlight procession due to the recent IDF offensive in Gaza, it was reported Tuesday.
The official reason given for the decision, made by the municipal board and local church in Lulea, was safety concerns, but Bo Nordin, a clergyman and spokesman for the church, cited the war in Gaza.
“It feels uneasy to have a torchlight procession to remember the victims of the Holocaust at this time,” Nordin told Swedish National Radio. “We have been preoccupied and grief-stricken by the war in Gaza and it would feel just feel odd with a large ceremony about the Holocaust.”
The decision drew fierce criticism from various organizations as well as residents of the city, and a defiant group of Lulea locals has decided to hold the torchlight procession anyway.
“To compare the Holocaust with Gaza is like comparing apples with pears,” said Inga-Lill Sundström, one the organizers of the ceremony.
Meanwhile, Auschwitz survivors and state officials were gathering to mark the 64th anniversary of the Nazi death camp’s liberation as part of worldwide Holocaust remembrance ceremonies.
The yearly commemoration, in the depth of the Polish winter, marks the day the advancing Soviet army liberated the camp in 1945. The anniversary has been established as an annual Holocaust remembrance day by the United Nations.
More than 1 million people, mostly Jews, died in the camp’s gas chambers or through forced labor, disease or starvation.
Tuesday’s commemorations at Auschwitz include a wreath-laying ceremony and prayers at the foot of the former camp’s main memorial, which stands between the twisted ruins of two crematoria.
Events elsewhere include a speech to the German parliament by President Horst Koehler and a ceremony at the former Sachsenhausen concentration camp outside Berlin.