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WARSAW, Poland (ChurchMilitant.com) - Poland is paying respect to the victims of the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.
Warsaw residents stopped in the streets as sirens wailed and bells of the city's Catholic churches tolled at noon Thursday in honor of the Jews who died fighting in the uprising and those murdered in the Holocaust.
Polish and Jewish people also pinned paper daffodils to their clothing, which originated from Marek Edelman, the last surviving commander of the uprising. He would lay these spring flowers at the city's monument to the fighters each year. Edelman died in 2009.
"Today, we salute the Ghetto heroes, their bravery, determination and courage," said Polish President Andrzej Duda to hundreds of government officials and parliamentary leaders, Holocaust survivors and Warsaw residents at the monument to the Warsaw Ghetto Heroes. "Most of them died ... as they fought for dignity, freedom and also for Poland because they were Polish citizens."
The Warsaw uprising was the first of its kind in Nazi-occupied Europe and the largest act of armed resistance by Jews in the World War II. Thursday's anniversary events are the first without any survivors of the uprising, however, a number of surviving noncombatants who had been in the ghetto as children were in attendance.
Three Holocaust survivors, Helena Birenbaum, Krystyna Budnicka and Marian Turski, were given honorary citizenship from the city at Warsaw's Town Hall.
Duda and other leading government officials and parliamentary leaders are also participating in other events, including a concert Thursday evening at the city's monument by the National Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra, the Warsaw Philharmonic Chorus and Polish soloists.
The concert will include the final movement of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony with the chorale finale movement based on the Ode to Joy theme. Polish composer Radzimir Dębski will be performing a piece he wrote for the occasion.
These anniversary events come a week after a new survey revealed that 70 percent of Americans are apathetic about the Holocaust and 58 percent believe that it could not happen again.
It was commissioned by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany and was released on April 12, Holocaust Remembrance Day.
The sample size included 1,350 interviews with Americans aged 18 and over. Among millennials, 41 percent believe that less than two million persons were murdered during the Holocaust and 49 percent cannot name a single concentration camp or ghetto.
But 93 percent of poll respondents acknowledged the need for students to learn about the Holocaust in school, and 80 percent think the teaching about the Holocaust could prevent it from occurring again.