Defense Media Network

Holocaust Remembrance Day

Today is Holocaust Remembrance Day (Yom HaShoah), the day set aside to honor the more than six million European Jews, as well as other minority groups deemed politically, racially, or socially unfit, who were systematically persecuted and murdered by the Nazi regime, led by Adolf Hitler, during World War II.

“The important thing is that one should not become indifferent to the suffering of others, that one should not stand by and just raise one’s hands and say, ‘There’s nothing I can do, I’m just a little one person,’ because I think what everyone of us does matters.”

– Margit Meissner, Holocaust survivor

In 1933, when the Nazi party rose to power in Germany, the Jewish population in Europe consisted of more than 9 million people. It was Nazi policy to eliminate them, and by 1945, when the Allies ended the war, two-thirds were dead, including nearly 1,500,000 children.


Seen here in Budapest, Hungary, Hungarian and German soldiers drive arrested Jews into the municipal theater, October 1944. Bundesarchiv photo

Across the nation, the day is marked in numerous ways: gatherings of loved ones, Holocaust museums’ memorial programs, lectures, marches, symphonic performances, literary events, educational lessons, documentary viewings, name-reading ceremonies, and, of course, moments of silence.

In Israel today, a two-minute siren sounded at 10 a.m. in memory of the six million Jews who perished during the Holocaust.

“They were living skeletons with skin on them and their eyes were huge. Huge dark eyes,” he said. “I was absolutely frozen in my tracks.”

One story being told today is that of 87-year-old Rick Carrier, who will join more than 10,000 high school students as they march from the gates of Poland’s Auschwitz death camp to the barracks of Birkenau. Carrier was a U.S. Army corporal who, on April 10, 1945, was among the first U.S. soldiers to arrive at the Buchenwald death camp near Weimar, Germany. He was expecting to find a stone quarry and saw mill and instead found a scene that was more horrific than those of D-day in Normandy and the Battle of the Bulge, both of which he survived: imprisoned people who were barely able to walk and could only speak in moans.

“They were living skeletons with skin on them and their eyes were huge. Huge dark eyes,” he said. “I was absolutely frozen in my tracks.”

Holocaust Remebrance Day

Holocaust Remembrance Day is April 19, 2012. The U.S. Congress established the Days of Remembrance as the nation’s annual commemoration of the Holocaust and created the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum as a permanent living memorial to the victims. The Holocaust Days of Remembrance will be observed from April 15-22, 2012, and International Remembrance Day was Jan. 27, 2012. Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute graphic

The next day, April 11, the Army took control of the camp, liberating 21,000 prisoners, including more than 900 children.

On this day to remember, across the world people of all faiths vow “Never again.”

But those words “Never again” have rung hollow over the decades since World War II. There have been many other genocides – in Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda, East Timor, Guatemala, Argentina, Darfur. People have been persecuted on different continents, for different reasons, and in different ways.

Said Rabbi M. Bruce Lusting: “So Days of Remembrance is an opportunity for us to remember the suffering that was and the efforts that were made to put an end to such suffering, and it’s a call to conscience today in our world to make sure that we aren’t the silent ones standing by, contributing to the suffering of others.”

As those who lived through the Holocaust and carry its memory inside themselves pass away, the carnage created during World War II and the genocide carried out by the Nazis also pass into history. Remembering the events will become more challenging. Yet, because the Holocaust was not the last attempt to wipe out a group of people, whether because of race, or tribe, or religion, we must never forget.