OSWIECIM, Poland — Joining in commemoration of the Holocaust, Vice President Dick Cheney declared Thursday that the mass murder that went unanswered until Nazi death camps were liberated 60 years ago is a reminder that evil must be faced down in the world today.

"The story of the camps remind us that evil is real and must be called by its name and must be confronted," Cheney said at a forum in Krakow, where he spoke before attending an anniversary program at the concentration camps here. "We are reminded that anti-Semitism may begin with words but rarely stops with words and the message of intolerance and hatred must be opposed before it turns into acts of horror."

While he didn't draw the comparison directly, the subtext of Cheney's message melded with the theme of President Bush's Inauguration Day speech about freedom versus tyranny as well as one of his previous State of the Union addresses when he called Iraq, North Korea and Iran the "axis of evil."

Within site of the ruins of crematoria, Cheney listened as dignitaries, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, and religious leaders from all faiths spoke solemnly about the massive deaths at Auschwitz and Birkenau, the larger of the two camps.

Aging Holocaust survivors, some wearing tags displaying their prison number, huddled under blankets at the outdoor ceremony to ward off heavy, blowing snow and freezing temperatures. Cheney, wearing a heavy olive parka with a white fur-edged hood, sat between his wife, Lynne, and Israel's president, Moshe Katsav, who in his remarks, given in Hebrew, said, "It seems as if we can still hear the dead crying out."

The Soviet Army freed prisoners at the camps on Jan. 27, 1945 as the war neared its end. Between 1 million and 1.5 million prisoners — most of them Jews — perished in gas chambers or died of starvation and disease at Auschwitz. Overall, 6 million Jews were killed in the Holocaust.

"On this day in 1945, inside a prison for the innocent, liberators arrived and looked into the faces of thousands near death — while miles beyond the camp, many thousands more were being led on a death march in the winter cold," Cheney said in his remarks earlier in the day.

"Inside barbed wire and behind high walls, soldiers found baths that were not baths, hospitals meant not to heal but to kill and the belongings of hundreds of thousands who had vanished."

He reminded his listeners, many of them young people, that the cruelty of the death camps did not happen in a faraway corner of the world, but in the "very heart of the civilized world."

"The death camps were created by men with a high opinion of themselves — some of them well-educated and possessed of refined manners — but without conscience," he said. "And where there is no conscience, there is no tolerance toward others ... no defense against evil ... and no limit to the crimes that follow."