75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz

Marking the 75th birthday of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration and death camp it is good to demand that active steps shall be made to make sure the horrors of the Holocaust shall not be repeated and future crimes against humanity shall be prevented by states reacting in the right way in time.

January 27 – International Holocaust Remembrance Day

2020 marks the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz and brings us in a year where we should make sure that nobody forgets the horror brought unto human beings by other human beings, in the previous century.

We should make sure that everybody comes to agree that it is humanity’s duty to honour Holocaust survivors, guard the memory of Holocaust victims and all other victims of Nazi persecution, and fight back against anti-Semitism and hatred against other believers and other races. At the same time we should take action against the many deniers or negationists, all the attempts to ignore and revise history, and to distort the truth of historical events.

According to many Germans, about one in five Germans – more than half of right-wing populists,  – think the Holocaust gets too much attention here. That can be found in two surveys, released on the eve of the world’s Yom Ha-Shoah, which come amid warnings.
The Tenth of Tevet, is considered a traditional day of mourning and fasting in the Hebrew calendar. On December 28, 1949, following a decision of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel,  it was decided to have a special day to remember the day that was marked by the burial in a Jerusalem cemetery of ashes and bones of thousands of Jews brought from the Flossenbürg concentration camp and to have religious ceremonies  in honour of the victims.

In 1951, the Knesset began deliberations to choose a date for Holocaust Remembrance Day. On April 12, 1951, after also considering as possibilities the Tenth of Tevet, the 14th of Nisan, which is the day before Passover and the day on which the Warsaw Ghetto uprising (April 19, 1943) began, and September 1, the date on which the Second World War began, the Knesset passed a resolution establishing the 27 Nisan in the Hebrew calendar, a week after Passover, and eight days before Yom Ha-Atzma’ut, Israel Independence Day as the annual Holocaust and Ghetto Uprising Remembrance Day.

Since 1950 the European Union commemorates the human horror on the day that Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi concentration and death camp, was liberated by the Red Army.

The Nazi’s had created internment centres for political prisoners and members of national or minority groups who were confined for reasons of so-called state security, exploitation, or punishment, usually by executive decree or military order. We always should remember that concentration camps are to be distinguished from prisons interning persons lawfully convicted of civil crimes and from prisoner-of-war camps in which captured military personnel are held under the laws of war. They are also to be distinguished from refugee camps or detention and relocation centres for the temporary accommodation of large numbers of displaced persons.

The first German concentration camps were established in 1933 for the confinement of opponents of the Nazi PartyCommunists and Social Democrats. Soon minority groups or people who were different than the main group, like homosexuals, Jehovah Witnesses, Roma, but chiefly Jehudiem got included. But by the end of World War II many anti-Nazi civilians from the occupied territories had also been liquidated.

Buchenwald concentration camp
Buchenwald concentration camp Prisoners arrested during Kristallnacht lining up for a roll call at the Buchenwald concentration camp in Germany, November 1938. American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, courtesy of USHMM Photo Archives

After the outbreak of World War II the camp inmates were used as a supplementary labour supply, working in 12-hour shifts around the clock. Such camps mushroomed throughout Europe. Those who did not go straight ahead in the ‘bathroom’ or ‘restroom’, could for some time put death aside but were required to work hard for their wages in food. Those unable to work either were straight ahead killed by a shot or died of starvation, and those who did not die from starvation just dropped death of overwork.
After 1940 extermination centres, or “death camps” were established, primarily located in Poland, which Adolf Hitler had selected as the setting for his “Endlösung der Judenfrage” or “Final Solution to the Jewish Question”, the official code name for the murder of all Jews within reach, which was not restricted to the European continent. The most notorious were Auschwitz-Birkenau, Majdanek also called Lublin-Majdanek, and Treblinka. Further not to forget: Sachsenhausen, and Dachau south of Buchenwald, were medical experimentation was conducted. New toxins and antitoxins were tried out, new surgical techniques devised, and studies made of the effects of artificially induced diseases, all by experimenting on living human beings.

There were some 18,000 prisoners after Kristallnacht, 11,000 on the eve of the war, 63,000 by the end of 1944, and 86,000 in February 1945, when Buchenwald became the destination for some of the inmates forcibly evacuated from Auschwitz. Although there were no gas chambers, hundreds perished each month from disease, malnutrition, exhaustion, beatings, and executions. Camp records indicate that throughout its existence some 240,000 prisoners from at least 30 countries were confined at Buchenwald. At least 10,000 were shipped to extermination camps, and some 43,000 people died at the camp. {Flint Whitlock and Michael Berenbaum in Encyclopaedia Britannica article on Buchenwald}

Buchenwald Nazi concentration camp (24 April 1945)

Reflecting on the Nazi’s crimes was a priority in post-war West Germany, but this consensus may be found crumbling,

Josef Schuster, head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, said Sunday in a statement on the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day:

“If we do not take countermeasures now, our democracy could be seriously endangered,” Schuster said, urging a greater commitment to Holocaust education.

Throughout 2020 in Germany as well as in the other countries of the Western continent of Europe, the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz shall be brought into remembrance with a wide range of programs, both official and private.

The Yougov Institute on Jan. 22-23 for the German news agency dpa, found that 24 percent of respondents thought the topic should get more attention, 22 percent felt the opposite.

A full 56 percent of those who identified with the far-right, anti-immigrant party “Alternative for Germany,” agreed that Holocaust remembrance is given too much weight. In recent years, prominent AfD politicians have decried Berlin’s Holocaust memorial as

“a monument of shame”

and called the Third Reich

“a mere bird-sh** in more than 1,000 years of successful German history.”

The polling institute Infratest for the Deutsche Welle news agency, found that 72 percent of AfD supporters agreed that Germans had done their remembrance duty and should stop obsessing over Nazi crimes. Supporters of the Green Party were the least likely to support that view at 13 percent.

Thirty-seven percent of all respondents said it was time to cease browbeating, representing a steady rise from 26 percent in 2018 to 33 percent in 2019.

On the other hand, 55 percent said they were fine with the current culture of remembrance, while 17 percent found that greater efforts should be made; 75 percent said a visit to a concentration camp memorial should be required by all schools.

Schuster urged greater efforts

“to re-anchor the lessons of the Shoah in people’s minds. It is not just the future of the Jewish community that is at stake, but the future of Europe.”

We may not forget that between 1918 and 1933 lots of people did not think this world was going to see another war again. Until 1938 or should we even say 1942 lots of people did not want to see what was really going on in Germany, and could not imagine the German Christians would do such terrible things against humanity.

In our family, for generations our family members were brought up with the saying that the soup would not be eaten as hot as it was served. Every generation learned that there were always people who spread rumours just to annoy others or to bully our community. For years our family thought such bad things could not be true and were lies to get our community to stand up its legs or to revolt. History proved that those rumours which reached the west of the continent, where only just a flickering in the huge fog. In the end it was far worse than any decent human being could ever think of.

Therefore, it is very important to have more than one day a year, to remember those who died by political and war violence.
Nobody may forget the six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust, but also not the others like those from the massacre of Cathari, the Armenian massacre, the killing of Tutsi by Hutu in Rwanda, and all those who died in genocides which took place on this earth.
We also have to make sure that there shall be no place in our civilised society for hatred against people of another skin colour or another faith. The world also has to recommit itself to the fight against anti-Semitism and to the two words that cannot be repeated often enough:

“Never Again.”

++

Additional reading

  1. Dr. Miller looking at Jews in France
  2. Subcutaneous power for humanity 1 1940-1960 Influenced by horrors of the century
  3. Christadelphians’ role in the rescue of Jewish children from Nazi Germany
  4. Christadelphians, the Kindertransport, and Rescue from the Holocaust
  5. Kitty Werthmann her account of grewing up in Austria under Nazi regime
  6. Interned and tortured at Breendonk before deportation to Auschwitz and later Buchenwald and Bergen-Belsen.
  7. Black page 70 years Release – commemoration Auschwitz
  8. The price of freedom
  9. Remembrance and freedom in the Netherlands – Dodenherdenking and Bevrijdingsdag
  10. the Soup will not be eaten as hot as it is served
  11. What to do in the Face of Global Anti-semitism
  12. The Rise of Anti-Seminism
  13. A Quarter of Europeans are Still Antisemites

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