“Today, as we commemorate the victims of the Holocaust, I hope that all of us can reflect on the need to continue to combat racism and religious or ethnic intolerance in every form, and with all our might,” Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said in a statement today.
“This is our solemn duty to the memory of the victims: to demonstrate civic courage, and responsible governance. We must prevent future acts of genocide by meeting the challenge that humanity still faces today – the task of learning to live together, as equals, in dignity, and with respect.”
The Holocaust remembrance day was established by the UN in 2005, 60 years after Soviet troops liberated Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi extermination camp. Al Hussein noted that the UN itself was at least in part created from the ashes of the Holocaust to reaffirm the dignity and worth of every person.
“These principles remain essential today,” he said. “People worldwide – including millions fleeing war, persecution and deprivation – continue to suffer discrimination and attacks. We have a duty to remember the past – and to help those who need us now.”
I took the picture above during a visit to Auschwitz, one of the planet’s largest cemeteries, in June 2014 and included it in a post entitled “Auschwitz-Birkenau: From Memory to History” to mark last year’s 70th anniversary.
More than 11 million people were murdered by the Nazi German regime during the second world war, six million of them Jews. More than 1.1 million were systematically slaughtered in Auschwitz-Birkenau alone, 90% of them Jewish.
I’ve posted about the visit a few times before so feel no need to add any banal platitudes now, a year later, when that dark chapter, one that still casts a long shadow over Europe, has moved that much further from memory, where it belongs, and into history, where it will gradually become muted and lost. That process has already begun as variations of “let’s send them off to the gas chambers” openly enter everyday parlance, cheapening its meaning and memory with every utterance.
I’ll spend the day remembering my grandfather, who spent more than two-and-a-half years in the Mauthausen camp network and at Dachau and who survived the nightmare to share countless stories with me and others, and his father-in-law, my great grandfather, who never left Dachau.