Holocaust Remembrance Day should inspire a renewed commitment to honor the memory of the 6 million Jews exterminated.
When the United Nations established International Holocaust Remembrance Day 10 years ago, it had a valiant mission in mind: to honor the memory of victims, and encourage the development of educational programs about Holocaust history to help prevent future acts of genocide. The resolution passed by the U.N. General Assembly rejected any denial of the Holocaust as an event and condemned all forms of religious intolerance, incitement, harassment or violence against persons or communities based on ethnic origin or religious belief.
The designated date was Jan. 27, to commemorate the day that Soviet troops liberated Auschwitz, the quintessential symbol of the Nazis’ killing machine.
In contrast to Yom Hashoah, which was declared as a day of Holocaust remembrance by the Israeli government and is widely marked throughout the Jewish world, the January day was intended to galvanize the international community — Europe in particular — to not only remember but to act on that memory.
How ironic — in fact, pathetic — that this year, 70 years after the liberation of Auschwitz and the end of a war that saw the near destruction of European Jewry, International Holocaust Remembrance Day follows closely on the heels of the latest act of terror against French Jews. The attack on the kosher supermarket in Paris that left four victims dead served as a vivid reminder that European Jews are still not safe.
Seventy years on, it seems, there can never be enough Holocaust education and reminders of what befell the Jewish people and what one human can do to another.
As articles throughout this week’s Exponent reveal, the remaining survivors are getting older and frailer but their stories remain as powerful as ever.
Whether told through the lens of a seasoned documentarian or a survivor at a middle school assembly; whether transmitted by a second- or third-generation survivor or a young high school student awakened to her identity at the Auschwitz site, these stories must prevail.
They are living reminders of our darkest hour. But they are also testament to the resilience with which we as a people — and the survivors in our midst particularly — rebound.
But it’s not enough to remember and commemorate.
These stories must inspire a renewed commitment to our dual task: To honor the memory of the 6 million who were exterminated in the Holocaust by taking steps to ensure that such barbarity not be permitted to exist in our world and to honor the survivors who are still with us by ensuring they live out their remaining years in dignity and peace. We owe them no less.