On April 28th, in the United States, in Israel, and in many places around the world, we observe “Yom HaShoah,” which means “Day of Remembrance” of the Holocaust.
On April 28th, in the United States, in Israel, and in many places around the world, we observe “Yom HaShoah,” which means “Day of Remembrance” of the Holocaust. In ceremonies across the globe, observers read from the Book of Names and light six candles in honor of the six million Jews who perished. Holocaust survivors engage with their communities and share their personal stories.
The Holocaust was the greatest crime in human history. Six million Jews were murdered by the Nazi regime and its collaborators - solely because they were Jewish. It began in the 1930s, when the Nazi Party came to power and the German government began to target those they deemed to be inherently inferior. Such people, mostly civilians, were rounded up, shut into ghettos, and deported to dozens of concentration or slave labor camps. Some were shot and dumped into mass graves. By 1941, a number of camps were being run specifically for mass killing. Those sent to slave labor camps were slowly starved or worked to death.
In addition to Jews, the Nazis targeted a number of other groups - including Roma, the disabled, homosexuals, and the Slavic peoples - because of their perceived inferiority. Some were persecuted on political or ideological grounds; among them Communists, Socialists, Jehovah's Witnesses, Freemasons, and anyone who resisted the Nazi dictatorship.
In the aftermath of the Second World War, the international community resolved never again to allow such atrocities to occur. In 1948, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Prevention and the Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. In 1979, the United States Congress established the Day of Remembrance and later, the Holocaust Memorial Museum to keep the memory of the victims alive for future generations. Today this museum has its own Center for Genocide Prevention.
The legacy of Holocaust victims enriches our understanding and is a symbol of the meaning of human dignity. In America, survivors remind us of the importance of tolerance by speaking in classrooms and community institutions across the country. They serve as living history – sharing their stories and recounting the experiences of all who perished.
Poet Claire Guest writes, “We couldn’t stop the horror,/ We couldn’t stop the hate,/ We can’t change history;/ We are here too late – / But what we can do is remember,/ In our thoughts and in our ways,/ Let these memories guide our actions.”