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Seventy Years After Liberation: Remembering Auschwitz

image of yahrzeit candle: via Wikipedia

I was twelve when I read the Diary of Anne Frank for the first time. And now, fourteen years later, it’s a book that I come back to at least once a year, not simply as remembrance of the Holocaust, but because of Anne’s tenderness, depth of feeling, and sheer girliness in the face of atrocity. Her diary accounts the life of her family, hidden away in her father’s business’s attic for two-years in Nazi occupied Netherlands. The diary is a modern classic, and Anne’s writing has become the voice of six million Jews killed during the horror of the Holocaust, helping to shape the post-war narrative of the genocide.

Today, I have pulled out my worn copy of Anne’s diary, and flipped to a quote I underlined during my first reading all those years ago. “I don’t think of all the misery, but of the beauty that still remains,” Anne wrote. The depth of compassion and hope that Anne was able to muster, in light of the baraceric horror she was subjected to, sturs a deep sense of promise for humanity. We can still find love - we must find love - in the horror of seemingly insurmountable evils.

Today marks the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the most lethal of death camps - Auschwitz. In commemoration of the victims of the Holocaust, the UN General Assembly created the International Holocaust Remembrance Day to not only reflect on the massacre of so many European Jews, gypsies, gays, Catholics, Russian, Poles, and dissenters, but also to promote education focused on the value and recognition of every human being, to combat hate, ethnic and religious profiling, and genocide.

Fence at Auschwitz, Image via Wikipedia

The scale of the industrialised killing, the cruelty of the guards, and the pseudo-medical experiments conducted on prisoners by Nazi doctors have made Auschwitz synonymous with a coldly efficient genocide and total degradation of humanity. This kind of intolerance must never be allowed to happen again. Words I’m sure everyone is nodding along with, yet the world has stood by while genocide has continued in places like Cambodia and Darfur. Proving that we must look back, we must remember, and we must still learn from our collective past.

I have included photographs from the Holocaust to help us global citizens remember, and I encourage daily reflection on how to make the world a better, more caring, more accepting place. In the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attacks, the grappling in Europe and the United States with immigration, and the current atrocities being committed by Islamist fundamentalists such as Boko Haram. The world needs a renewed vow to ensure that humanity is respected, intolerance unallowed, and lives protected.

Glasses taken from prisoners at Auschwitz, Image via Wikipedia

Ebensee concentration camp prisoners, Image via Wikipedia

Child standing behind a fence at Auschwitz, Image via Wikipedia

Czeslawa Kwoka, inmate at Auschwitz, Image via Wikipedia

The extent of evil that happened during the Holocaust is difficult to comprehend. But it is our duty as global citizens to reflect and teach one another to remember the history of the Holocaust and other genocides – such as Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda and Darfur. It is our obligation to understand what happens when hatred and fear are allowed, and to remember, and teach one another tolerance and understanding. Tolerance for humanity must be taught. It is critical that all people understand that hate is never right, and love is never wrong. Acceptance and human rights are issues that we, as global citizens, must be involved in and stay involved in. Global citizens must never be bystanders in creating a better future for all peoples.


Kathleen Ebbitt