BY OLIVIER MELNICK
On January 27, the whole world will be invited to remember the atrocities committed by Nazi Germany during the Holocaust by observing International Holocaust Remembrance Day. This is an anniversary that was set-up by the United Nations and is different from the yearly Yom HaShoah (Day of the Catastrophe) that takes place in Israel in the spring. While I find much bias in how the UN views and portrays Israel, I must commend them for recognizing the Holocaust. We live at a time of history nearing the complete extinction of all the remaining survivors of the Holocaust, as most of them are now in their mid-eighties at least. The motto of “NEVER AGAIN” arose soon after the closing of World War Two and has been the on-going creed of all those who want the Holocaust to be remembered. Recently, people have been even more creative in prompting, challenging and encouraging others to remember. This year, the World Jewish Congress wants to reach 500 million people globally, who will post the hashtag #WeRemember or #IRemember on a multitude of platforms on the social networks. Hashtags are a very powerful way to express an idea and make it attach itself and multiply itself on the web like nothing else can. In and of themselves, they are not bad, but they can have a tendency to become counterproductive.
Many people around the globe will post pictures of themselves with a sign showing the hashtag, and they will feel good about themselves. They will get a feeling of righteous indignation against hatred. They will feel like they are part of a broad community of people holding virtual hands to speak up against the Holocaust and antisemitism, and in a small way, they will be, but for most, the remembrance will dissipate soon after. Hashtags are a good starting point or a good addition, but if we truly want to remember–And now more than ever is the time to do so– we should opt for other ways of looking at the Holocaust. As permanent as a hashtag can become on the web, it is very ephemeral in our minds. There are other options that will leave an indelible memory in all of us, and we should explore them if at all possible.
Listen to a Holocaust survivor: Their number is dwindling down very fast, but there are still ways for many of us to get first-person accounts of the horrors of the Holocaust. If you know such a person or have an opportunity to go listen to one, do not hesitate to go and listen. Their stories vary from one to the next, but they all are a testimony to the problem of evil within mankind and the deep hatred for the Jewish people. For many of us, it can be challenging to meet one in person. The closest thing to a physical meeting is a video testimony. The powerful work of the staff at Shadows of Shoah brings many testimonies from survivors on video, and by virtue of that medium, renders their unique stories eternal. Additionally, the Steven Spielberg Shoah Foundation has over 54,000 video testimonies of survivors that are there to stay. Every single one of them is poignant and memorable in its own way.
Visit a Death Camp: In 2010, I had the opportunity to travel to Krakow, Poland and visit the remains of Auschwitz-Birkenau. This meant a lot to me since my maternal Grandfather Maurice Weinzveig was taken there by the Gestapo, from Paris in the Summer of 1942. Walking alongside the empty barracks in the cold of winter, left a mark on my psyche. Had Maurice spent time in any of them or did he die on the train or the gas chambers upon arrival? I will never know. The Death Camps are gruesome and eerie monuments left over from one of the darkest periods of mankind’s history. If at all possible, everybody, and most definitely every Christian should walk through one of them once in their lifetime.
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