27 January 2018

International Holocaust Remembrance Day

Today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day. The subject of the Holocaust has always been of great interest and importance to me — as an educator, as a student of history, as a person with Jewish friends, and as a compassionate human being.

My mother first told me about the Holocaust when I was quite young. It made an indelible impression on me. When I was a little girl I would go to the local Jewish bakery with my mother. The owner’s elderly father sat by the door and greeted people. I saw the number that was tattoed on his arm and I wondered about what he had experienced.

That grim curiosity has stayed with me. It’s rooted partly in my horror that anything so abhorrent could ever happen to an entire race of people. However, it’s more deeply rooted in the knowledge that other humans allowed it to happen. I realized, from an early age, how important it was to educate myself and others about these appalling historic events. When I was a teacher, I considered it a solemn honor to teach my students about the Holocaust. Together we studied and discussed its causes, effects, perpetrators and victims — so that we may never forget.

International Holocaust Remembrance Day is the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau. It’s a day to reflect on how the rhetoric of hate set off a chain of events that obliterated over 6 million human lives. These human beings were displaced, persecuted, discriminated against and murdered because of their ethnicity, religion, political beliefs, disability, or sexual orientation. I, for one, will never forget.

From YadVashem.org: “The Auschwitz Album (link below) is the only surviving visual evidence of the process leading to the mass murder at Auschwitz-Birkenau. It is a unique document and was donated to Yad Vashem by Lilly Jacob-Zelmanovic Meier.

The photos were taken at the end of May or beginning of June 1944, either by Ernst Hofmann or by Bernhard Walter, two SS men whose task was to take ID photos and fingerprints of the inmates (not of the Jews who were sent directly to the gas chambers). The photos show the arrival of Hungarian Jews from Carpatho-Ruthenia. Many of them came from the Berehovo Ghetto, which itself was a collecting point for Jews from several other small towns.”

The Auschwitz Album at Yad Vashem