International Holocaust Victims Remembrance Day: ‘Never Again!’

We must also go beyond remembrance, and make sure that new generations know this history. We must apply the lessons of the Holocaust to today’s world.”
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, for Holocaust Victims Memorial Day, 2008

Black-and-white photo through fence of buildings at Auschwitz-Birkenau

A fenced corridor at Auschwitz-Birkenau Nazi concentration and death camp. On this date in 1945, Soviet forces liberated the camp. Photo by Simone Onofri, courtesy of Flickr

MONDAY, JANUARY 27: As the world approaches the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide this spring, an earlier event—one that pushed many global leaders to declare, “Never again”—is being remembered, on International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust. On this date in 1945, Soviet forces liberated Auschwitz-Birkenau, a concentration and death camp in Poland that had claimed more than 1 million lives.

This year, Steven Spielberg will be speaking at the UN headquarters in New York, as millions of schools, governments, associations and civic groups host their own commemorations; the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum recently released a new film, The Path to Nazi Genocide, which examines the role of ordinary people and institutions in the Holocaust (watch it here). The European Parliament in Brussels will host the 2014 official International Holocaust Remembrance Day Ceremony (read more in the UK’s The Week and the European Jewish Press). Global citizens will reflect on the this year’s theme: “Journeys through the Holocaust.”

Did you know? The symbol of the Holocaust and the UN Outreach Programme consists of four elements on a solid black background: the words, “Remembrance and Beyond,” the UN symbol, a piece of barbed wire and two white roses. In the U.S. and the UK, white roses symbolize the investigation, remembrance and prevention of genocide.

On the brink of the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the UN General Assembly held a special event; following this session, the UN drafted a resolution to designate January 27 as the International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust. This memorial was first observed in 2006, although other international commemorations of the Holocaust were in existence prior to that. (Wikipedia has details.)

Many ways of remembering: Jews observe a day of mourning for Holocaust victims called Yom HaShoah, which begins at sundown on April 27 in 2014. The United States Congress established the Days of Remembrance, which will take place April 27-May 4 in 2014, reflecting the theme, Confronting the Holocaust: American Responses.

Yet each ceremony, regardless of its title, teaches about the horrors of the Holocaust and recalls the millions who perished, while providing the tools for preventing future genocide. The UN Resolution rejects any denial of the Holocaust, and denounces all forms of intolerance, harassment and violence against a person or community based upon ethnic origin or religious beliefs.

A POEM YOU CAN SHARE: This year, author Benjamin Pratt writes a brief poem, based on his recent visit to the Nazi slave-labor camp NZ Dachau. The poem is intended to help in efforts to educate and commit a new generation to pledging: “Never again!” Benjamin gives permission for you to share and reprint his poem for personal reflection and discussion.

A MOVING STORY OF REMEMBRANCE: Our Godsigns columnist Suzy Farbman writes, this week, about a woman’s search to find the song that had defined the love of her parents, both Holocaust survivors.

LESSON TO TAKE AWAY:
WATCH YOUR LANGUAGE

A Minnesota legislator recently penned his frustration over the media and public’s ever-increasing use of inappropriate Holocaust analogies—analogies which, he says, are not only inappropriate but trivialize the gruesome massacres that took place. His article points out that allowing keeping words like “Nazi” or “Holocaust” out of civic discourse will allow future generations to better understand the depth of what truly occurred, while honoring the memory of those who lost their lives.

In a separate article recalling the Holocaust, an author underlines the fact that the Holocaust did not start with advanced weapons, but rather with words—words of hate; words of prejudice; words that dug trenches between groups of people. Check out the article in The Jerusalem Post for more.

(Originally published at readthespirit.com, an on line magazine covering religion, spirituality, values and interfaith and cross-cultural issues.)

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