Wednesday, April 23, 2014

World remembers Holocaust horrors

April 8 commemorated the annual day of remembrance that educates future generations about the tragic events

Progress — Many museums, such as this one in Macedonia, help the world learn from a tragedy. Photo credit: Google Images


Famous philosopher George Santayana once said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

In an effort to never forget, Holocaust Remembrance Day — also known as Yom HaShoah — was held on Monday, April 8. This annual observance recognized nearly 70 years since the horrific crimes responsible for the loss of millions of lives.

This most solemn of days on the Israeli calendar was marked by moments of silence and commemorative ceremonies at Israel’s Yad Vashem memorial.

Having visited Yad Vashem last summer, I can personally attest to the overwhelming emotion that walking through the multiple museums and exhibitions produces. One need not be Jewish or have ancestry tracing back to the Holocaust to be moved to tears by the pictures, personal items and testimonials dispersed throughout the living memorial.

This heartbreak for the travesty of the Holocaust, however, is not a sentiment globally shared.

Tel Aviv University recently released a devastating study announcing that anti-Semitic hate crimes have increased by 30 percent in the last year. In 2013 alone, there have been 686 reported attacks in 34 separate countries.

At the opening ceremony night at Yad Vashem, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu commented on the Nazi genocide of the past, along with the current condition of Israel.

“The murderous hatred against the Jews that has accompanied the history of our people has not disappeared, it has just been replaced with a murderous hatred of the Jewish state,” Netanyahu said.

Graffiti of Nazi symbols, physical and verbal assaults, burning of Israeli flags, and desecration of Jewish synagogues and graves are only a few of the many signs of the unprecedented levels of increased anti-Semitism throughout the world.

This trend toward global growth in anti-Semitic events is appalling. Can it be possible that the world has failed to learn from its darkest days?

Perhaps most chilling of those stories now coming to light is the group of Dutch teens who recently shared with the world via video that they “hate Jews, period,” and are “more than pleased with what Hitler did to the Jews” and “regret that Hitler didn’t finish the job he began.”

If we embrace such hatred by choosing to simply overlook it, the world runs the risk of once again becoming a place unsafe for the Jewish population.

As the group of Holocaust survivors ages, their numbers are dwindling, and the new generation is all too quickly forgetting that, in order to shape the future, we must remember the past.

The world may never understand the full extent of cruelty suffered by Jews in concentration camps so many years ago, but the world can understand the suffering occurring in the present day.

The Holocaust stands as a perpetual reminder of the crimes that humanity failed to prevent — now that we have seen, we are responsible to ensure that the memory of the Holocaust always prevails and that history does not repeat itself.

The only way to avoid repeating past mistakes is to join in a global effort to end hatred and intolerance.

Anti-Semitism is not just a Jewish problem — it is a human problem. The Holocaust did not begin with death camps and crematoriums. That is where it culminated. It began with the hatred and the demonization of an entire race as society blindly looked the other way.

Anyone claiming to value freedom and equality must fight to end this resurgence of anti-Semitic thought. If we do not, our world will once again embody the moral failings of our past.

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