Lessons of Holocaust can never be forgotten
Every year, there are fewer survivors of the Holocaust — the systematic murder of some 6 million European Jews at the hands of the Nazis during World War II.
Today, most survivors are in their mid- to late 80s. Because of their age, the day is fast-approaching when the world will no longer have living witnesses to the most ruthless and horrifying example of state-sponsored genocide in human history.
But the lessons of the Holocaust will never die. Sadly, we’ve seen dozens of genocidal campaigns across the globe in the nearly 70 years since Allied forces liberated the Nazi death camps.
Congress established the Days of Remembrance as our nation’s annual commemoration of the Holocaust and created the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum as a permanent living memorial to the victims. This year, Holocaust Remembrance Day (Yom HaShoah in Hebrew) is Monday.
Congregation Ohr Shalom, 441 Kennedy, will host a service observing Yom HaShoah beginning at 7 tonight. The public is invited, and members of the Grand Valley Interfaith Network have made a tradition of attending.
David Eisner, the congregation’s lay leader, will lead the service, which will recognize the “victims, heroes and martyrs” of the Holocaust, but also acknowledge the need to work toward peace and tolerance to prevent modern instances of genocide.
The theme of this year’s Days of Remembrance is “American Responses.” On its website, The Holocaust Museum recounts America’s troubling history of turning a blind eye to the plight of Jews. A conscientious lawyer in the U.S. Treasury Department, John Pehle, uncovered evidence of the State Department downplaying intelligence about the Nazi’s “Final Solution.”
In 1944, President Franklin D. Roosevelt named Pehle to head the newly established War Refugee Board, which is credited with saving 200,000 lives during the Holocaust. But Pehle characterized the board’s impact as “little and late.”
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide, a more contemporary example of how lessons of the Holocaust played out in America’s response.
The Holocaust Museum, on its website, says:
“Despite warnings of imminent violence made by Canadian General Roméo Dallaire, the head of the UN Assistance Mission for Rwanda, the world failed to act and some 800,000 people were murdered within 100 days in 1994.
“President Bill Clinton later reflected on the U.S. government’s failure to respond: ‘If we’d gone in sooner, I believe we could have saved at least a third of the lives that were lost… it had an enduring impact on me.’
“As long as genocide remains a threat, we must continue to ask ourselves about the consequences of action — and of inaction. That is how we strive to fulfill the promise of Never Again.”