Survivors walk past a watch tower after paying tribute to fallen comrades at the "death wall" execution spot in the former Auschwitz concentration camp
Oswiecim (Poland) (AFP) - 17:16 GMT - AFP IS CLOSING THIS LIVE REPORT after dignitaries, Holocaust survivors and others gathered at Auschwitz-Birkenau's "Death Gate" to commemorate 70 years since the liberation of the infamous concentration camp.
Survivors spoke tearfully of the horrors of life in the camp -- recalling the smell of burning flesh, the arbitrary violence and daily humiliation -- and exhorted the world to never again stand by and let xenophobia, racism and anti-Semitism go unchecked.
Others warned that the virus of anti-Semitism was spreading once again, with a deadly attack on a kosher supermarket in Paris this month the latest in a string of anti-Semitic assaults in Europe.
In freezing temperatures and to the sound of mournful violins, delegates trudged through the snow along train tracks that delivered tens of thousands to an agonising death, and placed candles at a memorial stone, their thin light penetrating the icy darkness.
17:01 GMT - Survivors honoured - Delegates to the ceremony to mark the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz return to their seats after placing candles of remembrance.
Next, survivors are to be awarded with medals.
16:57 GMT - 'Line under history' - German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier tweets: "We cannot draw a line under history, especially not under the murder of millions."
16:41 GMT - Trauma of war - "My whole family was sent to Auschwitz because my parents hid a Jew named Rachmil Friedman. Three members of my family never returned," says Warsaw resident and survivor Eugeniusz Dabrowski, deported to Auschwitz in 1944 aged 15.
"There's only a few thousand of us left, we're dying. I'm here to warn young people against any repeat of the trauma of war," he told AFP, speaking at the site of the former death camp.
16:45 GMT - 'Wall of Death' - "If I survived it was to warn against this ever happening again," Roza Krzywolwocka-Laurow, 79, told AFP's Mary Sibierski earlier at the camp's bullet-riddled "Wall of Death" where the Nazis shot thousands.
She was sent to Auschwitz in 1944 as an eight-year-old Polish partisan.
- Testimony -
16:23 GMT - Candles lit - Auschwitz survivors, heads of state and others leave the ceremony tent to place candles in remembrance of Holocaust victims, to the music of Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings.
It is dark outside and the delegates' breath is visible in the cold air as they walk through the snow.
16:14 GMT - Prayers - Prayers are read and sung by religious leaders of different faiths to mark the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp. Delegates stand.
Some among the audience, including survivors wearing items of clothing that were part of the Auschwitz camp uniform, shed tears.
16:13 GMT - British Holocaust memorial - Britain is to build a new Holocaust memorial in central London to which the government will contribute £50 million (67 million euros, $75 million), ministers said Tuesday.
The memorial will be built along with an education centre in a bid to ensure that the lessons of World War II's mass killing of Jews by the Nazis are never forgotten.
15:53 GMT - Anti-Semitism and Israel - "For decades the world has been fed lies about Israel ... that Israel has no right to exist. We all learned that when you tell a lie three times and there is no response, that lie becomes the truth," Lauder says, addressing delegates at the Auschwitz 70th anniversary ceremony.
He says the latest wave of anti-Semitism has its origins in the Middle East, but has found fertile ground in Europe.
15:47 GMT - 'Europe complicit' - "There was complicity from almost every country in Europe," says Ronald Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress.
"Anti-Semitism will grow if no one speaks out. When whole countries are filled with hate, anti-Semitism leads to Auschwitz."
"Jews are targeted in Europe once again because they're Jews, Jewish businesses and synagogues are attacked."
"It looks more like 1933 than 2015."
15:42 GMT - Gas chambers - Steven Spielberg's documentary details the process of extermination at Auschwitz.
Those to be killed are asked to undress and hang their clothes on numbered hooks for supposed easier retrieval later. After people are packed into a chamber, guards throw in gas canisters through wire mesh chutes.
The process is designed so that each guard carries out only a step of the extermination process, reducing their guilt, the documentary says.
15:32 GMT - Steven Spielberg - Delegates are shown a documentary by Hollywood director Steven Spielberg describing life at Auschwitz, through the testimony of survivors.
The Auschwitz-Birkenau camp could kill and dispose of more than 4,000 people every 24 hours. SS officers, at their own whim, split new arrivals at the camp into two lines, one to work, the other for extermination.
"It all happens very quickly, as if on a conveyor belt," said one testimonial.
"Forget your name. From now on you're a number," said another.
15:25 GMT - Obama statement - US President Barack Obama releases a statement to mark the 70th anniversary of the Auschwitz liberation.
"The American people pay tribute to the six million Jews and millions of others murdered by the Nazi regime. We also honour those who survived the Shoah, while recognising the scars and burdens that many have carried ever since," he says.
"Honouring the victims and survivors begins with our renewed recognition of the value and dignity of each person. It demands from us the courage to protect the persecuted and speak out against bigotry and hatred.
"The recent terrorist attacks in Paris serve as a painful reminder of our obligation to condemn and combat rising anti-Semitism in all its forms, including the denial or trivialization of the Holocaust."
15:24 GMT - 'Never be a bystander' - Auschwitz survivor Roman Kent says, if he could, he would add an 11th commandment: "Never be a bystander".
His speech receives a standing ovation.
- Ovation -
15:22 GMT - Emotions high - "We survivors do not want our past to be our children's future," a tearful Kent says, his voice cracking.
"Decency and human rights for all people... opposition to anti-Semitism and racism of any sort."
15:18 GMT - 'Remembering not enough' - A tearful Kent says "remembering is not enough" and praises "righteous gentiles" who helped Jews during Nazi persecution.
"The answer to tyranny is involvement and the courage to make moral choices and act in accordance with their choices."
15:20 GMT - Live video - Follow live coverage of the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau via YouTube at http://u.afp.com/z7K
15:13 GMT - Background - Part of Adolf Hitler's genocide plan against European Jews, dubbed the "Final Solution", Auschwitz-Birkenau operated in the occupied southern Polish town of Oswiecim between June 1940 and January 1945.
Of the more than 1.3 million people imprisoned there, 1.1 million -- mainly European Jews -- perished, either in the gas chambers or by starvation or disease.
The Nazis killed six million of pre-war Europe's 11 million Jews.
15:11 GMT - 'Lifetime of eternities' - "One minute in Auschwitz was like an entire day, a day like a year, a month an eternity. How many eternities can one person have in a single lifetime? I don't know the answer to that either," says the third survivor to speak, Roman Kent, born in 1929.
"For me, a survivor of Auschwitz, to forget... even for one moment is impossible. Witnessing the atrocities committed at the entrance gate to Auschwitz was more than enough to keep me awake at night until the end of time."
He was liberated together with his brother Leon on April 23, 1945 in Flossenburg. Kent now lives in New York and is the president of the International Auschwitz Committee.
15:03 GMT - Escape - Former Polish political prisoner Kazmierz Albin, born in Kracow in 1922, is the second Auschwitz survivor to speak at the ceremony. In February 1943 he escaped from the camp.
"The only way for escape is through the chimney of the crematoria," a Nazi officer told prisoners, Albin recalls.
"Pregnant women, the elderly, the old and the ill go to the gas chambers," he added, speaking through a translator.
15:01 GMT - POLAND HAS 'RESPECT' FOR SOVIET LIBERATORS OF AUSCHWITZ: PRESIDENT
14:59 GMT - Holocaust lessons - Survivor Birenbaum condemns attempts to deny the holocaust, and laments that not enough has been learned from it, citing continuing anti-Semitism, xenophobia and extremism.
Without due care, "evil lingers" she says, and grows to "people being decapitated with the whole world watching", referring to videos online of hostages being executed by the Islamic State group.
14:53 GMT - 'Sophisticated torture' - Halina Birenbaum, born in 1929 in Warsaw, is the first of three survivors to recount their experiences at the anniversary ceremony.
She describes being shot in the arm by a guard, who had aimed for her heart. She describes the Nazis' "sophisticated torture", how she was forced to sing German songs, and how she saw and smelled the piles of "burning human bodies".
As a child she survived the nightmare of the Warsaw Ghetto and camps at Majdanek, Auschwitz, Ravensbruck and Neustadt-Glewe, where she was liberated in 1945. In 1947 she emigrated to Israel.
- Survivors speak -
14:50 GMT - 'Duty to remember' - "It is our duty to remember for ourselves and for the future," Komorowski says, concluding his opening speech to loud applause.
14:44 GMT - Eternal cemetery - Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski calls survivors "guardians of the memories of Auschwitz" and says xenophobia and anti-Semitism lay at the "foundations of the collapse of our civilisation" in the 20th century.
"German Nazis made Poland an eternal cemetery of the Jews," he says through a translator.
14:41 GMT - Survivors - Elderly Auschwitz survivors sit among world leaders, many wearing swatches of striped blue cloth of the kind used for prison uniforms at the death camp.
14:38 GMT - Dignitaries - Dignitaries at the ceremony include Belgium's King Philip I, French President Francois Hollande, Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite, Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima of The Netherlands.
14:37 GMT - Pope tweets - "Auschwitz cries out with the pain of immense suffering and pleads for a future of respect, peace and encounter among peoples," Pope Francis tweets.
14:29 GMT - Sombre music - Anniversary ceremonies begin at Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp, and the Internet video feed of the event has gone live.
Dignitaries and survivors are seated in a hall as a violin quartet plays sombre music.
The train tracks leading to the Birkenau camp gate are lit up.
- Ceremonies begin -
14:22 GMT - British political leader remembers - "It's 70 years since my grandfather died in one of the camps and I marked that about 10 days ago…. It's a Jewish thing, you light a candle and I know this sounds almost unbelievable, but it's only about six months ago that we discovered the full circumstances of what happened to my grandfather," said the leader of Britain's opposition Labour party Ed Miliband.
"It's awful and it makes me feel incredibly lucky. There's horror and there's hope, because it's also the case that many members of my family were saved because they were Jews who were hidden by decent people."
14:10 GMT - Younger generation - California resident Celina Biniaz, 83, tells AFP's Mary Sibierski she is optimistic about the future.
"I have great hope for the younger generation. They are more accepting, more willing to work for peace. It's important to continue to study: what is it that makes people want to hate another person?
"Because that's how it starts. It starts with hatred, with a lack of understanding," says Biniaz, saved from Auschwitz in 1944 after being recruited by German industrialist Oskar Schindler to work in his factory.
14:01 GMT - Russia spat - A row between Russia and Poland has overshadowed the Auschwitz liberation anniversary, with Moscow accusing Warsaw of trying to "re-write history".
Polish Foreign Minister Grzegorz Schetyna last week said it was Ukrainian soldiers who "opened the gates" of the infamous Nazi concentration camp in January 1945, while Russia says the camp was liberated by Red Army troops made up of many nationalities.
The Ukraine crisis has frayed ties between Russia and the West, and Russian President Vladimir Putin will not attend the ceremonies at Auschwitz.
13:53 GMT - Commemoration ceremony - The main commemoration events are to be held in front of the "Gate of Death" at the Birkenau site.
The President of Poland Bronislaw Komorowski will make a welcome address,camp survivors will make speeches, and heads of state will light candles.
13:43 GMT - Rising anti-Semitism - The commemorations at Auschwitz take place against a backdrop of rising anti-Semitism in Europe, underscored by the killing of four hostages earlier this month at a kosher supermarket in Paris.
French President Francois Hollande on Tuesday said the rise of anti-semitic attacks in France, home to Europe's largest Jewish community, was "unbearable".
13:33 GMT - WELCOME TO AFP'S LIVE REPORT on the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, where 1.1 million people -- mainly European Jews -- were killed in gas chambers or died through starvation and disease.
The commemoration is likely to be the last big anniversary to be attended by any of the camp's survivors, and world leaders are also expected to be present at what has become an enduring symbol of the horrors of Nazism and the Holocaust, which claimed the lives of six million European Jews.