Do We Really Remember?

We must work harder to "never forget"

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This past Sunday was a time of somber reflection as Holocaust Remembrance Day was observed around the world.

Holocaust Remembrance Day is held annually on the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, which was the largest of all the Nazi death camps and where over a million people were killed.

I recently saw an image of a plaque at Auschwitz, which reads “Forever, let this place be a cry of despair and a warning to humanity where the Nazis murdered about one and a half million Men, Women, and Children, Mainly Jews from various countries of Europe.”

As I read that plaque, I felt sad since I feel that the “warning to humanity” is slipping away.

For me, this topic is personal. My grandmother was a Dutch Holocaust survivor who by nothing short of a miracle survived 7 concentration camps; however, the rest of her family was not that lucky. She lost her parents, her two younger brothers, and her husband in the camps.

I am unique in the fact that I have had direct experiences with a Holocaust survivor. As the years tick on, the number of Holocaust survivors still alive dwindles. That is why it is the job of all of us to continue to spread their message and to tell their stories.

I have heard many students in our school lamenting that we read too many Holocaust novels. While this may not be a topic that we want to discuss, it is vitally important that we continue to read these books and hear these stories so that we never forget.

I say this in part due to the worrying trend of people around the world knowing little to nothing about the Holocaust. A recent study in the United States found that twenty-two percent of millennials in the poll said they have not heard of the Holocaust or are not sure whether they have heard of it.

Even more concerning, a poll released on Holocaust Remembrance Day shows that 1/20 people in Britain do not believe that the Holocaust even took place. This is downright dangerous. If we cannot recognize the sins of the past, then we cannot work to prevent them from ever happening in the future.

Image result for how many people were killed in the holocaust

I understand in some ways that it is hard to fathom violence on this is scale. However, we must. I recently read that if we held a minute of silence for every victim of the Holocaust, then we would have to be silent for 11 ½ years. This silence would only account for the 6 million Jews killed, not the 5 million other groups — including homosexuals, gypsies, and others whom the Nazis deemed not to be pure Aryans — who were also murdered. If we were to have a minute of silence for each of their deaths, we would have to add another 9 ½ years, bringing the total to over 20 years of silence.

This is an undoubtedly sobering statistic that I believe helps convey the sheer number of human lives taken in the Holocaust.  

Displaying the human lives behind the statistics is something that I feel is vitally important. One program that works to remind us of this humanity is the Faces of Auschwitz program, which takes images from the camps and puts them in color.  The program’s mission is “By bringing color to the original black and white registration photos and telling prisoners’ stories, “Faces of Auschwitz” commemorates the memory of those who were murdered in the name of bigotry and hate. It acts as both a memorial to their passing and a warning to the world at a time when the memory of the Holocaust becomes increasingly abstract and remote”.

One of the many works from the Auschwitz in color program.

This reminder of humanity is especially needed this year which was filled with hate and anti-semitism. From the growth of far-right European political parties to the murder of 13 worshipers at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, this was a year filled with hate and pain for so many. As human beings, we must stand up against intolerance, bigotry, xenophobia, and antisemitism — both at home and abroad. We must not just remember on one day, but instead, we must use the memory of the Holocaust to spur action and to combat intolerance in all its forms.