70 years may seem like a life time to us, but in the grand scheme of this thing that we call time, it is merely a blink of an eye.
70 years ago today, Auschwitz-Birkenau was liberated by allied forces, expelling its prisoners from more cruelty and pain than anyone should experience in a lifetime. Auschwitz. Situated in Southwestern Poland, Auschwitz was one of the largest death camps created by the Nazi forces. Its purpose? To assist in ensuring that the Final Solution to extract all the Jews from Europe became a reality.
Today, we call all the events that encompassed the Final Solution, the Holocaust.
On January 27, 1945, the allied troops entering Auschwitz-Birkenau for the first time were probably more apt to call it Hell.
The liberation of Auschwitz did not mark the end of the genocide of Jews and other perceived sub-humans of Europe. Camps continued to be liberated throughout the spring of 1945. Bergen-Belsen was liberated in April, a mere few weeks after Anne Frank perished there from a typhus epidemic that had swept through the camp. As Auschwitz was being liberated, tens of thousands of prisoners had already been forced to leave the camp, taken on death marches–an attempt by the Nazis to evade the Allied forces that they knew were closing in. Death marches. Because most of the ill-nourished and sickly prisoners would die from the strain of constant walking without food or water to sustain them.
The end of the Holocaust did not, for that matter, mark the end of genocide. It is a great misfortune that genocide has continued to happen since then. In Cambodia. In Rwanda. Just to name a few. The cold reality is that genocides will continue to happen unless we as a human race continue to band together to stop the madness of hate. Efforts have been made, are being made, but it’s not enough. Not yet.
Today is Holocaust Remembrance Day. January 27th. I don’t know how many people are aware of this, but they should be. Not just today, January 27, 2015, which happens to be the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. Although today is particularly symbolic for that reason, Holocaust Remembrance Day is honored every January 27th, on every anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.
For the memory of those who perished during the Third Reich’s hold over Europe. For the memory of all those who have ever perished as a result of the sheer power that hate can have over people.
For a more accepting future, one that won’t allow such crimes against humanity to happen.
What we today call the Holocaust was a highly devised plan. It took years to fully implement. The construction of gas chambers and their adjoining crematoriums didn’t happen overnight. Yet they were constructed; it did happen and it could happen again.
Awareness. We must be aware. We must be aware on Holocaust Remembrance day; we must be aware everyday.
So please, take a moment today to consider how lucky many of us are to live in societies that don’t repress us. At the same time, understand that there are still so many people living today who don’t have those same freedoms. Take a moment to recognize that the freedom that many of us are so fortunate to have could be snatched away from us at any moment.
It has happened before and if we aren’t careful, if we aren’t aware, there is a very high possibility that it will happen again.
We are the shoes, we are the last witnesses.
We are shoes from Grandchildren and Grandfathers,
From Prague, Paris, and Amsterdam,
And because we are only made of fabric and leather
And not of blood and flesh, each one of us avoided the Hellfire Moses Schulsetin, Yiddish Poet
Last summer while in D.C., I went to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum for the second time. I wrote about it on my D.C. blog, and I thought it only appropriate to provide a link to it here on this post:
My time at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum was without a doubt the most powerful experience I had while in D.C.
It is a day that will forever remain ingrained in my memory.