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ΑρχικήEnglish EditionInternational Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust:...

International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust: History should never be repeated


By Valia Nikolaidou, 

In April of 2022, I traveled to the beautiful city of Kraków in Poland and, of course, I visited the gut-wrenching site of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. No matter how much media one consumes and how many historical facts a person thinks they know about the Holocaust and its victims, they will never truly get a grip on how atrocious this genocide was until they visit a memorial and get to experience firsthand the situation’s significance.

The United Nations declared 18 years ago, that January 27th be the day of commemoration in memory of the approximately 18 million Holocaust victims overall; 6 million Jewish people and around 12 million of other ethnicities, political and religious backgrounds, and sexual orientations. This date is of great historical importance; January 27th was the day the Red Army, the Soviet Union’s powerful military force, liberated the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp.

Image source: southafrica.un.org

The annual event organized by the UN enables people to never stop educating themselves on this dark part of history and reflect on how a firm knowledge of the tragic facts could prevent the world from repeating the past’s mistakes. It renounces any denial of the Holocaust’s existence and decries any acts of harassment, violence, and bigotry against its victims and their ancestors. Moreover, the importance of preserving every site relating to the Holocaust and using them as memorials is underlined.

Image source: time.com

This year’s event will be taking place in the UN’s General Assembly Hall located in New York City and its theme is “Home and Belonging”. Various Holocaust survivors and scholars (more specifically, Jewish and Romani) will attend the event and share their experiences. The theme wishes to humanize the story of the Holocaust victims by showcasing how these people lost their homes and belongings in a violent and abrupt way. What started off as a general exclusion from the cosmic life and restrictions in the way the targeted minorities were living, eventually led to a complete infringement of their rights and ultimately, to their final form of punishment, with their admission in more than a thousand concentration camps all over Europe.

Another point of consideration that the event is trying to bring forward is the tolerance and acceptance of the horrific crimes committed by the Nazi regime, by the general public. Misinformation, inaccuracies, propaganda and hate speech from the German media were some of the main reasons people were so “brainwashed” and indifferent towards the heinous crimes. Taken from the UN’s secretary–general’s, António Guterres, speech in 2022:

We should not exaggerate the echoes of the 1930s. But neither should we be deaf to their eerie resonance today. 

We must remember: 

How easily hate speech turns to hate crime.  

How societies that have no room for diversity, have no room for humanity. 

How silence in the face of bigotry is complicity.”

Image source: www.hmd.org.uk

Taking into account the bleak political scene the world is in right now with a serious resurgence of far-right movements, the need to educate ourselves on the Holocaust is imminent and more relevant than ever. COVID–19 has also played a huge part in this situation; apparently, anti–Semitic attacks have increased after the lockdown and even some heated opponents of the vaccine are using the yellow star that Jews were forced to wear, as a sign of protest and objection. Along with the fact that the younger generation, according to recent surveys, does not know basic facts about the Holocaust, it is indisputable how important this international day is.

Commemorating the tragic endings of millions of people and recognizing the weightiness of the Holocaust is the way for humanity to prevent itself from a similar situation. Besides as the famous quote by Edmund Burke says “Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it”.


References
  • What is Holocaust Memorial Day? hmd.org.uk. Available here
  • Virtual remarks at United Nations Memorial Ceremony marking the International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust. un.org. Available here 

 

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Valia Nikolaidou
Valia Nikolaidou
Born and raised in Thessaloniki in 2001, she is an undergraduate student at the Department of English Language and Literature at Auth. Her passions include literature, watching movies, learning foreign languages, and travelling. In her spare time, she loves reading all kinds of books, going to the cinema, listening to music, and learning Spanish.