Remembering The Holocaust

Be kind

Below is from the Planet



It is the responsibility of each and every one of us to ensure that history does not repeat itself.

Seventy-eight years ago, on January 27, 1945, soldiers of the Red Army opened the gates of Auschwitz Concentration Camp. At first, everything seemed abandoned, but then they realized there were still thousands of people. About 7,000 prisoners awaited liberation in the Main Camp, Birkenau, and Monowitz. 

Georgii Elisavetskii, one of the first Red Army soldiers to step into Auschwitz, a complex of over 40 concentration and extermination camps, described what happened then: “They rushed toward us shouting, fell on their knees, kissed the flaps of our overcoats, and threw their arms around our legs,” 

Over a million people deported to Auschwitz perished there, and it is estimated that six million Jews were exterminated in the death camps.

Each year on the anniversary of the camp’s liberation, we remember and pay our respects to the victims; we should not forget them on all other days, and we should continue to do so for years to come. But there is another aspect to these commemorations; they increase our awareness of atrocities such as genocide and war. It is a first step for each of us to gain insight into what ideologies and actions can lead to such terrible acts, as well as into strategies that can be implemented to prevent them from occurring.

It makes commemoration not only somber but also inspirational because it links the past to the future. The dangerous mix of ingredients that led to hate, discrimination, and, ultimately, the unprecedented crime of the Holocaust may haunt humanity again in the future. Understanding what happened is the first step to avoiding repetition. And unfortunately, parallels between current events and the rise of fascism in the 1930s are easier to recognize in several of today’s societies than just a decade ago.

This brings me to this image I saw months ago circulating on social media. 

It’s a warning for all of us that the law should never be confused with a moral compass. Always think critically, question the actions of our leaders, and never blindly follow the directions they put in place. 

Our hearts should be filled with humanity, compassion, and kindness. While reading about the Auschwitz liberation, I was struck by the love and tenderness of one man who wrote to his wife and daughter while living in the hell of the extermination camp and realizing he would not survive.

Life in Auschwitz-Birkenau was filled with fear and uncertainty, especially for those chosen to work in the Sonderkommando. They were forced to carry out tasks in and around the gas chambers and were well aware that the Nazis would not let them live to ensure they would never disclose to the world what had happened there.

One of them, Hersz Strasfogel, wrote a letter in November 1944 and it is one of the only five buried accounts by former Auschwitz Sonderkommando that have been unearthed. It was discovered buried near the gas chamber ruins after World War II. The letter was written to his wife and daughter, who were living in France then. It became known as the Chaïm Herman letter but has, after extensive historical research, in 2019 been attributed to Hersz Strasfogel. Both of them did not survive Auschwitz. 

When I write today with great risk and danger, I do it in order to tell you that this is my last letter, our days are numbered and if one day you receive this missive, you will have to include me among the millions of our brothers and sisters who had vanished from this world. I am taking this opportunity of assuring you that I am leaving calmly and perhaps heroically (this will depend on circumstances), with one sorrow only that I cannot see you once more, not even for one moment…I ask your forgiveness, my dear wife, if there had been, at various times, trifling misunderstandings in our life, now I see how one was unable to value the passing time; I constantly thought here that, should I by some miracle get out of here, I would begin a new life… but alas, this is impossible, nobody gets out of here, all is over…I am sending you my last farewell for ever, these are my last greetings, I embrace you most heartily for the last time and I beg you once more, do believe me that I am going away calmly, knowing that you are alive and our enemy is broken…Farewell my dear wife and my dear Simone, accept my wishes and live in Peace, may God keep you in His care.Thousands of kisses from your father and husband.

Let me end with a quote from one of the other four letters that have been found, written by Zalman Gradowski, and found buried at an Auschwitz crematorium site:

Dear finder of these notes, I have one request of you, which is, in fact, the practical objective for my writing … that my days of hell, that my hopeless tomorrow will find a purpose in the future. 

He wrote so that his execution would find a purpose. He wrote so that we know, will never forget, and will prevent that we confuse the law with our moral compass.

If you are a parent or a teacher, please ensure the next generation learns these lessons from history. Teach kids and students to think for themselves and have their own values and beliefs.

Especially in today’s world, where populism is rising, it is crucial to think critically and question our leaders’ actions rather than blindly following the laws they put in place.

It is the responsibility of each and every one of us to ensure that history does not repeat itself.

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