Friday, November 28, 2014 Kislev 6, 5775

Remembering to Remember the Holocaust

January 29, 2014
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Members of Israel’s Knesset stand at the entrance to the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, January 27, 2014.

Another International Holocaust Remembrance Day has come and gone. Did you notice?  

For too many of us, the answer might be a slightly bewildered, “Wait, isn’t that in the spring?” The event, sanctioned by the United Nations in 2005 and commemorated this year by no fewer than 34 member countries, provided not just another opportunity to mourn the loss of the 6 million Jewish victims of the Nazis and their countless millions of progeny that never were; it also offered another vehicle to impart the lessons of the Shoah to generations of people who are becoming more and more removed from it.

And that is really what Jan. 27, the date selected by the United Nations because it was when Soviet troops liberated Auschwitz-Birkenau, is all about. It may be tempting to dismiss the UN-backed date by pointing to the primacy of Yom Hashoah, the spring Holocaust Remembrance Day which has the advantage of being decades more established. That began in Israel in 1953, with the imprimatur of Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion.  

But there continue to be so many cases of anti-Semitism that if we are to ensure that “Never Again” still resonates, we must take advantage of every possible opening to educate about the Holocaust.

In a world where French comedian Dieudonné, his name itself a sick play on the Aryan belief in their ascendance being God-given, can inspire legions of admirers to post photos of themselves performing his inverted Nazi salute, is it really possible to say that we are doing enough? When pig heads are sent to the Israeli Embassy and a synagogue in Rome just before International Holocaust Remembrance Day events, can we justify not taking hold of every initiative possible for outreach?

We can’t. And we won’t. It is the debt we owe past generations and the responsibility we have to future ones to press for Holocaust education, whether that means mandating a curriculum in Pennsylvania public schools or promoting historical exhibits in Serbia. The United Nations and its member nations themselves need continuous reminders about the lessons of the Holocaust.
It is our job to tell the stories of those who make up our history, whether they are among the living or among the massacred.  

As this week’s cover package demonstrates, there are still recollections we have not heard, personal histories that need to be brought to light. If there are “8 million stories to tell in the naked city,” as the 1948 film of the same name once famously posited, then how can we abdicate our responsibility to share the stories of the Holocaust until we have told the last of them?

We can’t. And we won’t.

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