Holocaust Remembrance Day is commemorated each year a week after the end of the Passover holiday, a day when the world pauses to remember the Holocaust, the millions who died and those who lived on, many to tell their stories to a generation born more than half a century later. To the younger among us, the Holocaust can feel like ancient history. Why is it important that we remember? And why do we continue to utter the mandate of Never Again, when the reality is that genocide has occurred again and again in parts of the world today.
It is often said that our youngest generation will be the last to meet and hear survivors tell their own stories, and those that have this privilege are unlikely to ever forget it. There are important lessons to be learned from survivors’ words and experiences, lessons that still have relevance to students’ lives today. One important lesson is about the tendency of hate to escalate when it is unchecked. When we witness everyday acts of insensitivity, bias or intolerance, it’s easy to turn our backs and walk away, to avoid getting involved. Many did just that in Europe seventy years ago, and that subtle bias was able to grow and fester like a cancer. A wise person once reminded us that the Holocaust did not begin at the gates of concentration camps. It began with words – words that grew into prejudice and then acts of discrimination and bias-motivated violence and finally genocide.
We remember the Holocaust because of our hope that the world will never go through darkness as deep as that, but also because we know that the millions who did not survive to tell their stories took with them a world of lost possibilities. They would want to know that they were not forgotten. And because today’s youth will be the last to hear survivors speak in person, there is a renewed importance to finding new ways to keep their stories alive.
But how do we do that? And how do we inspire in one another the motivation to make Never Again the reality the world longs for? We can begin by taking a moment wherever we are to remember those who died. We can be witnesses who carry on the stories we have heard to others. We can ensure that students today have opportunities to reflect on the lessons of the Holocaust and to hear the stories of survivors, resisters and rescuers. And we can take the time to stop and take a stand against the insensitive, biased and intolerant words and acts that happen around us. Working together, we may even turn the hope of Never Again into a global reality.
Yom Hashoah will be observed on the following dates:
Thursday, April 16, 2015 Thursday, May 5, 2016 Monday, April 24, 2017 Thursday, April 12, 2018