Today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day. It is a day we should all remember … a day we should hope never EVER happens again. The lessons of this history have never been more relevant than they are today as we see many nations leaning away from democratic principles and toward authoritarianism. Those lessons of history should be the focus of this solemn International Holocaust Remembrance Day—designated by the United Nations General Assembly in 2005, on January 27th, marking the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi concentration and death camp, in 1945.
The victims of the Holocaust were an estimated 6 million Jewish people, 200,000 Romani people, 250,000 mentally and physically disabled people, and 9,000 homosexual men by the Nazi regime and its collaborators. We must … MUST take time to remember these victims and take note of how it all came about, else we risk repeating the mistakes, the horrors, of the past.
History and the lessons we must learn from it tend to seem less relevant to us as the years pass. Today, 77 years after the end of WWII and 77 years after the liberation, there are few people still living who have direct, personal memories of the Holocaust. But, we have the recorded history in stories and pictures to remind us. These were not just “six million Jews” … these were people … REAL PEOPLE. They were grandchildren, spouses, mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters … they were each and every one loved by other people! We cannot forget them or simply brush them off as another historical fact! Take the story of 15-year-old Bertha Adler …
1940-44: Bertha was 11 when the Germans occupied Liege. Two years later, the Adlers, along with all the Jews, were ordered to register and Bertha and her sisters were forced out of school. Some Catholic friends helped the Adlers obtain false papers and rented them a house in a nearby village. There, Bertha’s father fell ill one Friday and went to the hospital. Bertha promised to visit him on Sunday to bring him shaving cream. That Sunday, the family was awakened at 5 a.m. by the Gestapo. They had been discovered. Fifteen-year-old Bertha was deported to Auschwitz on May 19, 1944. She was gassed there two days later.
Or survivor Arye Ephrath …
From the moment he was born, Arye Ephrath was in danger. His mother gave birth to him with the help of a housemaid in spring 1942 while hiding from the first wave of deportations of Jews from their hometown in Slovakia. Later, a shepherd and his wife took in Arye on the condition they could disguise him as a girl so that he would blend in with their daughters.
Real people … these were real people like you and me. It is true that we cannot dwell on nor live in the past, but we can also never afford to forget the past, else we are certain to keep repeating it. More and more of late I am disgusted by people making comparisons of such things as mask and vaccine mandates to the Holocaust … THERE IS NO COMPARISON!!! And today there is a push by certain politicos to re-write history, to teach children only happy things that won’t give them any discomfort. BULLSHIT! History is often uncomfortable, but it is far less uncomfortable for young people studying it in a well-lit, comfortable classroom than it was for those who lived … or died … through it!
I leave you with a poem by Charlene Schiff, nee Shulamit Perlmutter, the only one in her family to have survived the Holocaust …
By Charlene Schiff
Blowing bubbles in the air Rainbow colors, all so fair.
Nightingales and jasmine’s scent All that love and beauty meant.
Rainbow colors, no, no more Guards with rifles by the door.
Star of David on my coat I can’t swim, I can’t float.
A haystack in a farmer’s field Used by seven as a shield.
Then only one of us is left, filled with sorrow and bereft.
The bottom of a water well. Did someone see me, will they tell?
I’m slipping, clinging to the rounded wall Dear God, don’t let me fall.
Being hungry, snow and frost Cold, alone, and very lost.
Why go on with such a life Stalked by terror’s cutting knife?
My heart by now an empty shell From all that pain, from all that hell.
It’s such a long and awful war My wounds forever an open sore.
Papa’s hug and Mama’s kiss.
Darling Sister I’ll always miss.
Their loving, sweet and gentle faces.
Gaze at me from empty spaces.
They’re gone forever—all is vanished.
And my soul to torment banished.
Remember, my friends. Do not let the lives of nearly seven million people be forgotten and do not fall into complacency thinking it cannot happen here or cannot happen again. Yes, it can.