Holocaust Remembrance Day More Relevant Than Ever
Europe | 27.01.2006
The world will remember the victims and survivors
of the Holocaust on January 27
January 27, 1945: The Red Army liberates
Auschwitz and exposes Nazi brutality to the world.
The same day in 2006 will be the first international
Holocaust Day. It comes at a time of heightened anti-Semitism.
Nazi rule in Germany lasted from 1933 to 1945 and
cost the lives of six million European Jews, who were
gassed, starved or worked to death in concentration
camps across the war-torn continent.
On January 27, 1945, the concentration camp at Auschwitz
in Poland was liberated by the advancing Red Army of
the Soviet Union. What they discovered there would
become the legacy of the Nazi regime's brutality and
For ten years now, that date has been reserved in
Germany for a day of remembrance, a day when the country
remembers the day the Holocaust became a lasting scar
on world history. This year, January 27 will become
an international day of remembrance as the United Nations
recognizes Holocaust Day as a global anniversary.
Its recognition by the world body comes at a time
when the Holocaust is once more being used as a political
tool and as a platform for the renaissance of anti-Semitism
beyond the borders of Europe where the original atrocities
took place. The latest denials of the Holocaust, most
prominently put forward by Iranian President Mahmoud
Ahmadinejad, threaten to undermine efforts to respectfully
honor the anniversary.
It is now 61 years since the Red Army freed the concentration
camp at Auschwitz. The number of surviving victims,
like the eyewitnesses to the atrocities and the liberation
of the camp, decreases every year.
Lessons still need to be learned
time passes, it becomes increasingly obvious that the
reality of the horrors of Auschwitz fades, and that
the distance of years somehow estranges humanity from
one of its greatest shames.
But Auschwitz is not the only abomination that suffers
dilution through the passage of time: the fate of political
prisoners at the hands of the Nazis, the Sinti, the
Roma, the so-called "anti-socials," the homosexuals
and the religious minorities.
Efforts to remember the legacy of the Third Reich
have taken on many different aspects in many countries
across Europe. Memories of Nazi rule mix with other
political-historical experiences to stamp the horrors
of the 20th Century on countries in many ways.
The people in the east of Europe, who had to suffer
the Soviet occupation after the Nazi reign of terror,
have had it especially hard. Poland, the Baltic States,
the former Soviet states on the boundaries of Europe;
all have had two masters in the past, both brutal and
unforgiving. After National Socialism came Soviet Communism.
While no one should doubt the suffering of the Jews
during World War II, remembrance must also be afforded
those who suffered under Stalin's boot for many more
years after the Nazis were defeated.
A day for all who have suffered
January 27, therefore, becomes an international day
of remembrance on which every country can reflect
on brutality and repression. The day is dedicated
to all those who suffered but it is mostly about
the destruction of European Judaism. This date in
2006 will be the day when the world thinks of the
victims of the Holocaust and it should be a day when
people look back to the past to learn the awful lessons
which must be avoided in the future.
The remembrance of the genocide remains an ethical
obligation, and this obligation remains as strong now
as ever before as suffering and mass murder continues
to happen in the world.
The timing of this international recognition must
not be played down lightly. No longer is anti-Semitism
a smoldering bitterness in the backrooms of far-right
strongholds in Germany.
When the message of hate is being preached so publicly
by the president of Iran and the government in Tehran
is planning a conference to discuss the Holocaust "myth" with
notorious deniers is attendance, we can see that
anti-Semitism is far from being a thing of the past.
It did not die on January 27, 1945.
The Iranian president's message is finding receptive
ears. Whether it is the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt
-- the strongest opposition party in the Egyptian parliament
with scions in other Islamic lands -- or representative
of the militant Hamas in Palestinian territories, the
hatred of the state Israel unites them.
Israel is the land given to the survivors of the Holocaust
and the constant thorn in the flesh of extremist Muslims.
With the Palestinians suffering under the oppression
of Israel, there is plenty of fuel for a new wave of
One could dismiss this as an ideological obsession
if it was not for the growing voice of the Holocaust
deniers. For the survivors of the Holocaust and their
families, this is a further infliction of pain and
Europe, specifically Germany, should lead
should lead the way in opposing anti-Semitism
What can be done? The only correct action is not to
remain silenced and not to polish over history. Ahmadinejad
and like-minded people must be faced with a strong
and clear "no" from Europe. The idea to
counter the proposed Holocaust conference in Tehran
with a European summit featuring Arab and Israeli intellectuals
is a good one.
Germany, which carries the heaviest burden of historical
responsibility, should be there leading the way. Germany
should also continue to work as the model for processing
and archiving the crimes of National Socialist history.
The Holocaust anniversary on January 27 reminds us
all that we should not stop in our efforts to remember
the events that are being commemorated out of respect
to the victims. It's another step on our quest for
Cornelia Rabitz (nda)