Don’t Look Away: Remembering the Holocaust

“To the past, the way has been barred, And what do I need the past for now?  What is there? Bloodied flagstone-Or a bricked up door or an echo that still cannot die away……However much I beg.”

~ Nonna L. Bannister The Secret Holocaust Dairies 

National Remembrance Day.  The day set aside to remember the past, and specifically the Holocaust.  It is the day for sad stories, sad images, and the tragic theme from Schindler’s list.  But is it?  Is that all it is? A day to remember a bunch of people who died long ago?  No, there is so much more to it than that!

The Holocaust killed an estimated 11 million people in the span 12 years.  But it took so much more than just their lives.  They were stripped of their humanity, their dignity, torn from their families, forced to labor as beasts, despised and abused. Men, women, and children, old and young, methodically and systemically slaughtered and de-humanized.  The Holocaust was a horrible, horrible, thing. But it must not be forgotten.

Why is it important that we remember these things? As Nonna asks ‘what do I need the past for now?’ It is important because it happened, and if we forget, it could happen again.  In the Holocaust we remember the enormous amount of evil that man is capable of.  We remember the terrible consequences that resulted from man’s desire to play God.  When men decided who was valuable, who should live and who should die.  In the Holocaust we view the tragic consequences of fear and apathy.

I have always loved to hear the stories of people who experienced the Holocaust.  Not for the horror, but for the hope.  Hope?  Yes, the hope in the people who survived but also those who did not.  The hope and courage of those that were willing to give everything to save the life of a fellow human being.  The hope that comes from the people who suffered in the most unimaginable ways possible and yet they refused to give up, they refused to lose hope. These stories inspire and encourage me.  They encourage me that no matter what, there is always hope. They inspire me to have the same courage.  There is so much we can learn from these people.

But is it not just the heroes of the Holocaust we must remember. We must remember those that thought they were God.  Those that thought they were justified in killing thousands of innocents.  Not just Hitler, Himmler, or the other leaders, but also their followers. The people who unquestioningly followed the orders that resulted in these horrible deeds. We also should never forget those who kept silent.  In a way these people shared in the guilt.  They did nothing, said nothing; they saw the suffering and looked away.

I believe that another reason we must remember the Holocaust is that it helps us to remember all of the innocent and helpless who suffer and die today. There are echoes of the Holocaust in the innocent baby that is dehumanized and murdered in his own mother’s womb.  The precious handicapped who are done away with for being ‘imperfect’.  Or the old and sick who choose to die because they can no longer sustain ‘a quality’ life.  Every life is precious.  The thing that gives every life ‘quality’ is that it comes from God.  No one is a mistake, every life is a divine gift. No mutation, no disease, nothing can change the value of a human life.

So please, don’t look away!  Don’t be silent.  Don’t be someone who does nothing!  Remember the helpless and defend them, this day and every day!

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