Americans are observing May 1st to May 8th as "Holocaust Days of Remembrance" – a time to remember Nazi Germany's systematic murder of some six-million European Jews during the Second World War.
This year marks the sixtieth anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death camps. Millions of innocent people, predominantly Jews, but also Slavs, Roma, and political opponents of the Nazi regime, were starved, tortured, and worked to death in slave labor camps, or shot or gassed at killing centers such as Auschwitz in Nazi-occupied Poland. The defeat of Nazi Germany by the U.S. and its allies finally put a stop to dictator Adolf Hitler's campaign of genocide.
In January 1945, Auschwitz was liberated by troops of what was then the Soviet Union. Donald Braum, deputy director for Holocaust issues at the U.S. State Department, says Auschwitz serves as a reminder of what crimes human beings can commit in the service of an evil ideology:
"I think there are real lessons for today that we need to glean from remembering the Holocaust, remembering the camps, remembering the death and atrocities that were committed there. So that as we look at current day events, whether it's anti-Semitism in Europe or elsewhere in the world, or other types of prejudice, against Muslims, against people of other faiths, that we can understand what can happen if we don't take measures – whether it's education, whether it's legislation or law-enforcement – to combat that type of intolerance that in fact was at the base of what led to the Holocaust."
People in many countries are taking part in Holocaust memorial observances. Turkey's prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited Israel's Holocaust Memorial Museum at Yad Vashem, and signed the museum guestbook. President George W. Bush said that those who perpetrated the Holocaust "had all the outward traits of cultured men, except for conscience." Their crimes, said Mr. Bush, "show the world that evil can slip in and blend in amid the most civilized surroundings." Only conscience can stop it.
The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States government.