Tuesday, January 27, 2015

70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz

 “To forget a Holocaust is to kill twice” Elie Wiesel

Today marks a very special day in human history.  It is only one day that is part of the story of 12 years of horror, starvation, cruelty and atrocities by the Nazi’s against millions of innocent people.  It is important that we take time to recognize and remember this day.  January 27, 2015 is exactly seventy years since the liberation of Auschwitz, the largest concentration camp established by the Germans. Auschwitz included a concentration camp, a killing center, and forced-labor camps. It was located 37 miles west of Krakow (Cracow), near the prewar German-Polish border. [i]   On January 27, 1945 the Russian Army reached the gates of Auschwitz. 
An estimated 1.1 million people, most of them Jews, were murdered in Auschwitz, in German-occupied Poland, between 1941 and 1945.[ii]  It is a staggering number.  More people died at Auschwitz than the combined losses of the American and British military troops during the war.  Disease, starvation, firing squads, and the infamous gas chambers disguised as showers took the lives of over one million gypsies, homosexuals, individuals with disabilities and Jews.   Auschwitz has been described as the world’s biggest Jewish graveyard; it has become the symbol of the holocaust. 

This year there will be several ceremonies at the camp to mark this day in history.  For many of the survivors, this may be their last time make the journey to the camps to remember and to honor those who were murdered there.  As each year passes, we are losing these eyewitness survivors.  There is a great effort underway by the Shoah Foundation and others to document their stories, before it is too late.  

I am always so moved by the stories of these survivors; their courage is almost beyond comprehension.  I feel a special connection to the Jews of Eastern Europe; my great grandmother was born in Warsaw.  I am so grateful that she left for America when she was a young girl; I cannot help but think about what might have happened if she stayed.  Would she have been at Auschwitz or one of the other horrible Nazi concentration camps?  Would she have been one of the few 'lucky ones' who survived, or would she have perished along with so many others? 
Many people describe the holocaust as ‘unthinkable’, but it did happen and we must acknowledge what people are capable of – so these kinds of atrocities will never again happen. 

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