The UN human rights chief marked Holocaust Remembrance Day with a statement highlighting the dangers of anti-Semitism and all forms of racial and religious hatred and discrimination.
"The sadistic brutality of the atrocities inflicted by the Nazi regime on Jews, Roma, Slavs, disabled people, political dissidents, homosexuals, and others was nourished by layer upon layer of propaganda, falsifications, and incitement to hatred," UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said in a statement on January 27.
He said it is "essential to uphold independent rule of law institutions and a free press, which can hold leaders to account and establish a truthful record of the facts."
Education must be at the core of all efforts to combat anti-Semitism, racism, and all forms of discrimination, the rights commissioner's statement said.
Holocaust Remembrance Day is observed internationally on January 27 -- the day the Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz and the nearby Birkenau death camp were liberated by Soviet soldiers in 1945.
The Holocaust refers to the genocide of some 6 million Jews, and the mass murder of millions of others, organized by German leader Adolf Hitler's Nazi Party between 1933 and 1945.
Nearly seven out of every 10 Jews who lived in Europe before 1933 were killed.
Numerous events were held across Europe to mark Holocaust Remembrance Day, including a solemn ceremony at the Bundestag, Germany’s parliament, attended by Chancellor Angela Merkel and relatives of Holocaust victims.
Members of Germany’s Bavarian state parliament were visiting the Czech town of Litomerice, where some 4,500 people died in a Nazi concentration camp.
In Poland, survivors of the Auschwitz-Birkenau camps gathered to commemorate more than 1 million victims who perished at the site -- mostly Jews from across Europe, but also Poles, Roma, Soviet prisoners of war, and others.
Jewish and Christian leaders prayed over the ruins of gas chambers at Auschwitz and Birkenau, with some warning about rising xenophobic hatred against Jews, Muslims, and others.
Poland's Prime Minister Beata Szydlo attended that ceremony and recalled the "destruction of humanity" and the "ocean of lost lives and hopes" that resulted from the German genocide.
Szydlo is from Oswiecim, the Polish town where the Auschwitz memorial and museum are located.
In Croatia, the Jewish community boycotted the official Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony, saying the conservative government is not doing enough to curb pro-Nazi sentiments in the country.
A community leader said the decision was made after authorities failed to remove a plaque bearing a World War II Croatian pro-Nazi salute from the town of Jasenovac, the site of a wartime death camp where tens of thousands of Jews, Serbs, and Roma perished.
With reporting by dpa and AP