THURSDAY, JANUARY 27: Light a candle, greet someone new or take some time to learn more about current world events; however you choose to commemorate today, do so in honor of International Holocaust Remembrance Day. (Check out the materials at ReadTheSpirit’s Holocaust Educational Resources page.)
The dark, eerie images of Nazi death camps cause many to shudder, but today is about just the opposite of that: Today, the UN has declared, is about rejecting denial of the Holocaust. Only with the courage to face our past can we can face our future. (Check out the UN’s official International Holocaust Remembrance Day site. Or, find out what America has planned for today at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum site.)
Specifically, today marks the anniversary of the 1945 liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi death camp; as was said by Auschwitz Survivor Henry Appel, “There is only one thing worse than Auschwitz itself … and that is if the world forgets there was such a place.” In 2005, the United Nations General Assembly designated today as International Holocaust Remembrance Day. This year, the day’s theme is “Women and the Holocaust: Courage and Compassion,” and focuses on the many ways in which women struggled through the Nazi atrocities and put their families before themselves. (A study guide is available to further explore this year’s theme. Or, watch a video from a female Holocaust survivor; six are available on the UN’s site.) Not all women heroes of the Holocaust were victims: Irena Sendler, a Polish social worker, rescued thousands of Jewish children from a fatal end. (Read her fascinating story here, from Dan Buttry’s “Interfaith Heroes 2.” To read more stories like Irena’s, check out “Interfaith Heroes 2,” available from Amazon.) Every member nation of the UN is obligated to honor Holocaust victims today, in part to help prevent future acts of genocide.
If you light a candle this year, remember the many ways women adapted to Holocaust conditions and became models of strength for their families; and read about the current conditions in Cote d’Ivoire. Although Cote d’Ivoire isn’t in a state of genocide yet, experts are growing worried. (Read an article here.)
The US Holocaust Memorial Museum also has a page with suggestions on how to respond to genocide. Nothing conveys an appreciation of the Holocaust to new generations like the first-person stories of Holocaust survivors, yet these men and women are vanishing after so many years. Oral histories, gathered in extensive collections, are already available for classroom and other educational uses. As President Barack Obama said last year to remember the Holocaust: “Every child and grandchild that your [Jewish] families have brought into the world with love, every day the sun rises on the Jewish state of Israel—that is the ultimate rebuke to the ignorance and hatred of [Aushwitz] this place.” (Watch Obama’s full speech here, courtesy of WhiteHouse.gov.)