By TIMOTHY JACOBS (Associated Press Writer)
Baltic leaders attended ceremonies in Poland on Thursday to mark the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp while Jewish groups, government officials and students commemorated "Holocaust Day" in Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia.
Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga, Estonian President Arnold Ruutel, and Lithuanian Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas joined other world leaders at the ceremonies in Poland as their countrymen gathered to mark the region's own Holocaust history that claimed the lives of more than 90 percent of the prewar Baltic Jewish population.
Many Latvian Jews and government officials, including Foreign Minister Artis Pabriks, attended ceremonies Thursday in the capital, Riga, and at a holocaust memorial in the nearby town of Salispils, 20 kilometers (12 miles) southeast of the capital, the site of another Nazi-run concentration camp.
Discussions were held about the Holocaust in the Estonian capital, Tallinn, on Thursday and later a candlelight vigil was planned at a monument in Klooga, 32 kilometers (20 miles) southwest of Tallinn, the site of an Estonian concentration camp where nearly all the Jewish prisoners were killed over a two-day period in 1944.
Schools throughout the Baltics showed films or held forums as part of Holocaust Remembrance Day.
The Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp complex - where more than 1.5 million people perished - was liberated by advancing Soviet troops on Jan. 27, 1945. Since 1996, Germans have set the day aside as Holocaust Remembrance Day to focus on the crimes committed in their name.
This marks the third year the date has also been recognized as Holocaust Remembrance Day in the Baltics.
The Holocaust claimed the lives of nearly 300,000 Jews in Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia.