For Holocaust Remembrance Day 2016

Barbed wire fence at Auschwitz

More specifically, International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust, which is being celebrated today, the 71st anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi’s death camp at Auschwitz.

“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.

USA Today has a listing of some commemorations that will be held in different parts of the world and The Guardian has this photo essay for teachers teaching students about genocide, from the second world war to the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia to ethnic cleansing in Rwanda.

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Today’s Pic du Jour, the site’s 754th straight, was taken in Oświęcim (Auschwitz), Poland, on 19 June 2014. A few others on the theme of Auschwitz are here.

 

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  1. pattimoed says

    Hi Bob. I’m so glad you posted this. This needs to be remembered. And I’m sorry too about your great grandfather who died in one of the camps as well as your grandfather who had to endure the brutality and hatred of that time. I will never forget the feeling of standing in front of the Holocaust memorial plaque in Amsterdam and reading the names of family members who died in the camps.

  2. ladieswholunchreviews says

    I have been to Dachau and it was stark and gray and the pictures on display were horrible.

    1. Bob R says

      I visited there as well 15 or so years ago — the feeling I recall was much different than at Auschwitz, much of which doesn’t exist any more. Some of the buildings were recently painted which gave the impression –wrongly of course– of a white-washing. It looked too much like a museum. I couldn’t get a real sense of the what it might have been like when my grandfather was there.

      1. ladieswholunchreviews says

        It was longer ago for me, but hopefully Dachau and Auschwitz and other internment camps will never be forgotten and the lesson will be remembered. I can well remember what Dachau looked like when I was there and the inhumanity that was portrayed still sickens me…

  3. Jason says

    Thanks for posting this. My father is Jewish and lost relatives in the camps. We must never forget and always be on our guard against the rise of extremist ideologies, racism and xenophobia.

  4. paula graham says

    My stepfather’s complete family was gassed in in Sobibor by the Nazis and I find it horrifying to see and hear the attitude towards the poor distressed folk fleeing the various wars …The barbed razor wire fences….the similarities are getting uncanny…where is EMPATHY??

  5. Alli Farkas says

    I find it odd yet somehow comforting that your grandfather felt psychologically healthy enough to share stories with you. There were so many survivors who never wished to speak of it at all.

    1. Bob R says

      I asked him about it during a summer visit to Slovenia when I was 15 and he shared stories for the next 3-4 hours. An afternoon I’ll never forget. My only regret is that I didn’t take notes.

  6. Mick Canning says

    Thanks for sharing this, Bob. It’s so important not to forget, and so important to challenge the racists and haters today.

  7. mcarnes811 says

    Thank you for posting. It always blows my mind when I think of survivors in the death camps. How did they survive? What horrors they witnessed. I cannot even imagine

  8. marlene frankel says

    I am part of the 2nd Generation. My mother and grandmother were taken to Auschwitz in August 1944. My grandmother was gassed, and my mother was transferred after a week to Bergen-Belsen. At 90 years old the trauma is still apparent with my mother. My group looks at the repercussions on the survivor’s children. And to think this type of horror still continues.

  9. sedge808 says

    thank you for posting this.

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