by: Ilse Strauss
Wednesday, 27 January 2021 | Today is the annual International Holocaust Remembrance Day. It is a day that transcends borders and religions as the world remembers the terrible genocide during which an estimated six million Jewish men, women and children were murdered.
On January 27, 1945, the Red Army Russian forces reached the Auschwitz–Birkenau extermination camp in Poland and opened the gates to the largest Nazi killing center in Europe. The Russian forces found only 4,500 people inside. Ten days before the Red Army came, the Nazis sent nearly 60,000 starving prisoners on what became known as Death Marches, grueling treks for miles on end in extreme temperatures. Nearly half of those who marched through the gates of Auschwitz at the Nazis’ command did not return, perishing from exposure and exhaustion, their bodies depleted from years of malnutrition and illness.
Some 1.1 million people—90% of them Jewish—died at the hands of the Nazis and their collaborators in Auschwitz. The camp has since become a symbol of the Holocaust, representing the depths of evil, cruelty and deprivation.
In 2005, the United Nations designated January 27 as the International Day of the Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust and today, 76 years later, the date continues to echo as a clarion call to remember that which was lost.
Now in its 16th year, a number of countries participate in International Holocaust Memorial Day every January 27 and host events to remember the terrible legacy of the Holocaust, with the day even considered a national event in the United Kingdom. The Jewish state, for its part, honors this occasion, yet has another day—Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) starting at sunset on the 27th day of the biblical month of Nisan—set aside to mourn the six million people who perished simply because they were Jewish.
As the world continues to reel from the onslaught of COVID-19, the large gatherings and memorial events that usually mark this day made way for online proceedings. This year’s memorial day has a two-part focus: remembering the 1,500,000 Jewish children who perished at the hands of Nazi Germany and combatting rising anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial, which is at a post-war high, the Times of Israel reports.
Nearly 250,000 children were murdered at Auschwitz–Birkenau, of which at least 216,000 were Jewish. All too often, these young victims were deported to the extermination camp alone and died in the gas chambers immediately upon arrival. A mere 700 children of all nationalities survived the death camp.
“The adult world—after all, so often unjust and cruel—has never demonstrated so much of its heartlessness, its evil,” the Times of Israel quoted Dr. Piotr M. A. Cywiński, director of the Auschwitz–Birkenau State Museum in Poland, as saying. “This [murder of children] cannot be justified by any ideology, reckoning or politics. This year we want to dedicate the anniversary of liberation to the youngest victims of the camp.”
While today is set aside as a solemn remembrance of the horrors of the Holocaust with many across the world vowing “never again,” it is tragic that anti-Semitism—the virulent, consistent and perpetual prejudice against the Jewish people that has plagued the offspring of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob for millennia and ultimately served as the catalyst for the persecution, pogroms, expulsion, genocide and the Holocaust—is once again rampant.
Recent years have been marked by a near universal rise in anti-Semitism to levels dangerously close to the days of pre-war Nazi Germany, while Holocaust denial has skyrocketed to a post-war high. Shocking statistics recently released by UNESCO revealed that 47% of Germans polled during 2020 view Germany as “not particularly guilty” for the horrors of the Holocaust, the Times of Israel reports. Moreover, two-thirds of the American youth surveyed were unaware how many people perished in the Holocaust. For its part, in Sweden, one-third of the social media statements referring to Jews are marred by anti-Semitism or threats of violence.
For this reason, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum has chosen to dedicate this year’s remembrance day to combatting Holocaust denial and distortion.
The United Nations and UNESCO are also throwing their weight behind the drive against Holocaust denial by launching a social media campaign entitled #ProtectTheFacts aimed at creating awareness regarding the “dangers of Holocaust denial and distortion.
According to Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics, there are currently roughly 179,600 Holocaust survivors living in Israel. Some 17,000 survivors passed away since the last International Holocaust Memorial Day in 2020, 900 of them of COVID-10.
Bridges for Peace provides regular food parcels filled with all the makings of nutritious meals to nearly 23,000 needy Israelis every month. Many of these are Holocaust survivors, who struggle to make ends meet, keep the heat on during the cold, wet winter months and put wholesome food on the table. Bridges for Peace wants to extend that hand of love, support, physical sustenance and friendship to these precious survivors who have suffered such terrible cruelty. But we can’t do so without your help. Would you please consider giving a generous donation to our Food Program to ensure that we can put nutritious food on our Holocaust survivors' tables?
Posted on January 27, 2021
Source: (Bridges for Peace, January 21, 2020)
Photo Credit: Hannah Taylor/bridgesforpeace.com
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