The international community recently remembered the worst horror of the twentieth century, among rising hatred internationally.
Jan. 27, 2018 marked International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Seventy-three years ago on that date, allied forces from the Soviet Union liberated the death camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau, in Nazi-occupied Poland.
Holocaust Remembrance Day is intended to serve as a remembrance of the countless lives, six million of them Jewish, who were murdered when the Nazis were in power. It is also intended as a promise: never again.
In a time when neo-nazism is rising in popularity in the form of radical conservatives, this day serves as an important reminder to stand against hate.
In November, I went to the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam. One of the videos they play as part of the museum is of one of Anne’s childhood friends, who says something along the lines of, “she didn’t just die. She was murdered, because she was Jewish.”
The victims of the Holocaust were murdered because they were Jewish, or disabled, or Romani, or LGBT. It didn’t ‘just happen’ – it was deliberate, and it was done from a deep-seated place of hatred that became normalized. It was accepted by the residents of Hitler’s Germany because it didn’t affect them directly, because it was inconvenient to care, because they did not want to think about it.
The United Nations reflected on the importance of Holocaust Remembrance Day as part of their commemoration speeches, “We must stand together against the normalization of hate. Whenever and wherever humanity’s values are abandoned, we are all at risk.”
Although this is always important, it is especially important in 2018. Time reported on the increase in hatred internationally in the past year, a stark backdrop to international calls for peace and remembrance. According to Time, radical conservative parties in Germany and Austria are gaining power, with politicians making anti-semitic as well as anti-migrant and anti-muslim statements.
A Holocaust survivor quoted by time, Hanni Levy, commented on this, “In the past, the Jews were found guilty of everything. Today it’s the refugees. One should never forget how difficult it is to leave behind everything just to survive.”
Hateful words lead to hateful actions, which in countless events throughout history lead to the murder of those in marginalized groups. If we truly want to stop things like this from ever happening again, we cannot just say that Nazis and Neo-Nazis are bad. Obviously remembering the Holocaust means standing against conservatives that practice radicalism, but it also means calling out your friends when they stereotype a marginalized group, speaking up to your uncle at a family dinner, and remembering the lessons of the Holocaust every day, not just on Jan. 27.
On International Holocaust Remembrance Day, we remember what happened at humanity’s very worst.
In 2018, in a world where it has become increasingly acceptable for radical conservatives to spew anti-semitic, Islamophobic, homophobic and ableist remarks, we have to do the work every day. Because hate never stops at just words – it becomes actions.
Millions in Europe died for this, six million of them Jewish.
We have to do the work: never again.