On April 12, the world remembers the millions who died in the Holocaust during World War II at the hands of the Nazis and their sympathizers. In the state of Israel, it is known as Yom HaShoah and in English as Holocaust Remembrance Day, where it is observed as Israel’s day of commemoration for the approximately six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust. In Israel, it is a national memorial day. It also marks the anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.
The Holocaust took place in Europe during the period of 1933-1945 when Adolf Hitler ruled Nazi Germany. The Nazis ideology blamed all of Germany’s post-WWI ills at the hands of the Jews. It started a systematic persecution and elimination program to the “Jewish Question” for the territory in Europe that the Nazis controlled. The Nazis also murdered millions more across Europe who were considered racially, politically or socially inferior.
What makes this era so noteworthy is that the civilized world looked up to Germany at the time. Her scientists, academics, physicians, and theologians were among the most respected in the world. It was a very civilized country in the very heart of Europe. Not in a backwater third-world country with a people still in the Bronze Age.
And yet, the Nazis turned on their own neighbors and citizens and millions of others who were systematically murdered while the population turned a blind eye to what was happening.
When it was over, the rest of the world was shocked by what they saw their fellow man do to one another. But the words “Never Again” were sadly not to be. The United States Holocaust Museum interviewed a number of Holocaust survivors and their stories ring true today.
Margit Meissner, Holocaust Survivor, “In 1945, at the end of the war, I would have thought that there would never be another Holocaust, that the world was so shocked by what had happened that the world would not permit that. And yet you see what happened in Bosnia, what happened in Rwanda, what happened in Darfur. So there are still millions of people being persecuted because of their ethnicity.”
For the American soldiers who liberated these camps, having fought across Europe and seeing first-hand the horrors of war in no way prepared them for what they witnessed in the camps.
To a man, they saw the degradation, the lack of humanity and the horror of the suffering of their fellow man and were shocked. My own father liberated one such camp. He spoke very little of his time during the war. Although he saw fierce combat in a tank destroyer unit, the experience of the camp was something that would haunt him the rest of his life. His unit’s story was similar to what American, British and Russian units were finding all across German territory at the end of the war.
His unit came to a place that they didn’t know what it was. What looked from afar like a POW camp or prison was vastly different once they entered. Bodies were stacked in huge piles nearly the length of the compound as the Germans were looking to dispose of the evidence of their crimes against humanity.
He had rolls of film, of the camps, the dead bodies, and the German civilians and soldiers. The former were made to walk thru the camp to see what their government had wrought on the people in the camps and both were made to bury the dead, some with the bare hands, carrying the corpses into a huge mass grave that was covered by a bulldozer.
I remember him talking at length, at the absolute lack of humanity inside those walls and that everything changed for them at that point. One of my relatives who was present asked him why in the world would he take so many pictures of what was an absolutely awful place and circumstances.
His answer was quick. “We were ordered to, supposedly down the line from Eisenhower (General Dwight D. Supreme Allied Commander), himself.” Reports were pouring in that Allied troops were all finding these camps across Germany and Czechoslovakia.
“Everyone with a camera was ordered to go in and take as many pictures as possible,” he said. That same relative asked why. “Because we were told that someday, somewhere, someone is going to say, ‘none of this ever happened’, so we did.”
That thought from Eisenhower was prophetic. Today in many places, the students are taught that Holocaust either never happened or was greatly exaggerated.
In my own experiences, after my military service and working as a contractor with over a hundred Iraqis, I was shocked to hear many of them say with absolute certainty, that the Holocaust is a myth. That it never happened and the Jews that run the media along with the CIA perpetrated this lie. The fact that my father was a witness to it, with rolls of pictures for proof, and the fact that he wasn’t in the CIA, (By the way, it didn’t exist in WWII), influenced them not at all. I’ve even met Europeans who say much the same thing.
Having been to the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem, the one thing, among many was that the Nazis were meticulous record keepers as well as a murdering bunch. That’s why it is so important that we remember all of the victims, Jews and others on this day.
We can’t whitewash this abomination from our culture and our history because it is uncomfortable as we see so much of in this country with our own history with the institution of slavery and the Civil War.
Many of the victims of the Holocaust left Europe for Israel after the war’s end. There are over 200,000 of them living there today. They’re dying at the rate of 40 a day. Sadly about one in four now live in poverty.
President Trump made a proclamation on Holocaust Remembrance Day and got little if any airplay. The national media was more interested in the tawdry details of a dalliance with a porn star before he was a politician than an event which shaped history. But that isn’t just the media, it is a sign of the times…however,
On Yom HaShoah, or Holocaust Remembrance Day, and during this week of remembrance, we reflect on one of the darkest periods in the history of the world and honor the victims of Nazi persecution. This year marks the 75th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising when the imprisoned Polish Jews mounted a courageous and extraordinary act of armed resistance against their Nazi guards.
The Holocaust, known in Hebrew as “Shoah,” was the culmination of the Nazi regime’s “Final Solution to the Jewish Question,” an attempt to eradicate the Jewish population in Europe. Although spearheaded by one individual, this undertaking could not have happened without the participation of many others who recruited, persuaded, and coerced in their efforts to incite the worst of human nature and carry out the ugliest of depravity. The abject brutality of the Nazi regime, coupled with the failure of Western leaders to confront the Nazis early on, created an environment that encouraged and inflamed anti-Semitic sentiment and drove people to engage in depraved, dehumanizing conduct.
By the end, the Nazis and their conspirators had murdered 6 million men, women, and children, simply because they were Jews. They also persecuted and murdered millions of other Europeans, including Roma and Sinti Gypsies, persons with mental and physical disabilities, Slavs and other minorities, Christians, Jehovah’s Witnesses, gays, and political dissidents.
Let us continue to come together to remember all the innocent lives lost in the Holocaust, pay tribute to those intrepid individuals who resisted the Nazis in the Warsaw Ghetto, and recall those selfless heroes who risked their lives in order to help or save those of their persecuted neighbors. Their bravery inspires us to embrace all that is good about hope and resilience; their altruism reminds us of the importance of maintaining peace and unity, and of our civic duty never to remain silent or indifferent in the face of evil. We have a responsibility to convey the lessons of the Holocaust to future generations, and together as Americans, we have a moral obligation to combat anti semitism, confront hate, and prevent genocide. We must ensure that the history of the Holocaust remains forever relevant and that no people suffer these tragedies ever again.
Donald Trump, President
Photos: Holocaust Museum