75 years after Auschwitz – Holocaust Education and Remembrance for Global Justice

In the 1930s and 40s many stood at the side and did nothing even when they thought something was wrong. Others might have been silent but were taking action, hiding Jehudiem with the danger for their own life.

The annual commemoration of International Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 27 was an initiative of the State of Israel at the United Nations.
Resolution 60/7 was passed in November 2005 and on this day each year, it serves as an international warning to the dangers of genocide.
The 60/7 resolution states,
“The Holocaust, which resulted in the murder of one third of the Jewish people, along with countless members of other minorities, will forever be a warning to all people of the dangers of hatred, bigotry, racism, and prejudice.”

Education and Global Justice

“To one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.”  (James 4:17)

This year, the theme of Holocaust Memorial Day is “75 years after Auschwitz – Holocaust Education and Remembrance for Global Justice” in recognition of collective action against anti-Semitism and other forms of bias to ensure respect for the dignity and human rights of all people everywhere.

Standing by and doing nothing

Jewish Holocaust survivors and their children are painfully aware of those who stood by and did nothing in the Holocaust.

A relative of one of the Israeli ministry said,

“I remember overhearing a Belgium citizen, who was a young man at the time of the Nazi invasion of his land, recalling how he and others had stood idly by as his Jewish neighbors were loaded into trucks and carted off to their destruction.”

All genocides, including the Holocaust, can only take root when the local population allows such persecution to take hold.

Even though some actually supported and even facilitated policies of persecution, most of the people stood by quietly, not objecting in any way, afraid to speak out, or at worst, simply indifferent to what was happening to their fellow citizens.

It is these quiet bystanders who enabled the Holocaust, the Nazi persecutions, and the genocide that followed.
Elie Wiesel, 2014. – Daniel Bockwoldt/dpa/Alamy

Holocaust survivor and international author Elie Wiesel in his 1986 Nobel Prize acceptance speech revealed the powerful part that bystanders played:

“I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation.  We must always take sides.  Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”  (Nobel Prize)

Gentiles helping Jehudiem

Until the end of 1938, Albania was the only country at the time whose embassy in Berlin issued Visas to Jews.
In addition, this underdeveloped European nation successfully protected much of its small Jewish population by sheltering Jewish refugees in mountain villages or helping them get passage by boat to Italy.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recognized the bravery of the Albanians during World War II when the Albanian prime minister, Edi Rama, visited Israel.
“I think Albania is the only country whose Jewish population during the Holocaust actually grew because of the refuge and the sanctuary and the friendship and courage shown by the people of Albania,”
Netanyahu said.

Workers in the shadow zone

We also may not forget the thousands of ‘unknown’ or ‘hidden’ people who had the courage to shelter children or even to hide whole Jewish families.
Thousands of Gentiles and their families risked their lives to hide Jews, even on their own properties, and to help them to escape to safety.
“Thou art my hiding place and my shield: I hope in thy word….” Psalm 119:114
Hidinh place book.jpg
Cover of the book on the life of Corrie ten Boom, written by her and John and Elizabeth Sherrill. displayed edition published by Bantam Books in October 1974

The story of the Dutch watchmaker and later a writer, Corrie Ten Boom who worked with her father, Casper ten Boom, her sister Betsie ten Boom and other family members to help many Jehudiem escape the Nazi Holocaust during World War II by hiding them in her home. In her autobiography, The Hiding Place, which was later made into a film of the same name, along with a comic book adaptation by Barbour Christian Comics, she tells how one Dutch Christian family worked with the Dutch underground during the Nazi occupation of The Netherlands to both hide Jewish families and to help them escape to England.

As a Christian Corrie suffered a moral crisis over the lying, theft, forgery and bribery that were necessary to keep the Jews safely hidden. A big problem for her was that it was unlikely that her family would get away with helping Jews for long, as they had nowhere to hide them. The Dutch underground resistance arranged for a secret room to be built in the Béjé so that the Jews would have a place to hide during an inevitable raid. But it was a constant struggle for Corrie to keep the Jews safe. To protect them she had to make several sacrifices. Rolf, a police officer friend, trained her to be able to think clearly anytime for when the Nazis would invade her home and start to question her.

The Dutch collaborators (traitors to humanity) got to Corrie with the help of a spy, who asked Corrie to help his wife, who had been arrested. Not knowing about the real intentions of that man Corrie agreed but with misgivings. As it turned out, it was a set up trap, and the watch shop was raided. The entire family was arrested, along with the shop employees, but the Jews managed to hide themselves in the secret room.

Cellenbarakken Strafgevangenis Scheveningen, gezien van buiten de gevangenismuur
Cell barracks Scheveningen Prison, seen from outside the prison wall

Corrie was sent to Scheveningen, a Dutch prison used by the Nazis for political prisoners, nicknamed ‘”Oranjehotel”‘, a hotel for people loyal to the House of Orange. After four months at Scheveningen, Corrie and Betsie are transferred to Vught, a concentration camp for political prisoners in the Netherlands.

When a counteroffensive against the Nazis seemed imminent, the prisoners were shipped by train to Germany, where they were imprisoned at Ravensbrück, a notorious women’s concentration camp. Betsie’s health completely failed but by her faith she tried to stand strong and showed a universal love for everyone. The sisters used a hidden Bible to teach their fellow prisoners about Jesus and the Good News of the coming Kingdom of God.

Betsie died at the Ravensbrook concentration camp, whilst their father had died in a Dutch transient camp. Due to a clerical error Corrie was released just before Christmas.  She spent the rest of her life travelling the world and giving her testimony.  She died in Placentia, California at the age of 91 in 1983.

Spreading the hidden going on

Next to those who tried to help locally, hide Jews or other imprisoned people, there were those who found it important to inform others of what went on in the different European regions.

Market in the Warsaw Ghetto, 1941.
German Federal Archives (Bundesarchiv), Bild 101I-134-0780-21, photograph: Albert Cusian

The Polish resistance fighter Jan Karski refued to stand by and smuggled himself into the Warsaw Ghetto to see for himself what was going on, so that he could warn world leaders of the Holocaust, as early as 1942.

He brought his message to the 32nd president of the United Statest, Franklin Roosevelt who was an anti-Semite and showed little interest in the plight of the Jews.  President Roosevelt did ask Karski about the horse and cattle population of Poland, though!  After speaking with Karski, Roosevelt asked Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter,  a noted scholar and teacher of law, who was in his time the high court’s leading exponent of the doctrine of judicial self-restraint, to speak with him as well.
After hearing his report, Karski recalls Frankfurter’s comment:
 “I do not believe you.”
This would not be surprisingly, because what Karski had to say seemed very unbelievable. Speaking to the ambassador present, Frankfurter added,
“I did not say that he’s lying.  I said that I don’t believe him.  These are different things.”
Karski, who was Catholic, returned to Poland in the midst of the war to continue fighting for Jewish liberation without the aid of the US.

Educational

The adjective “educational” when applied to Holocaust exhibits does not have to mean sentimental education — getting people sad and shocked and angry, so they internalize the message of “never again.”

It is very important to keep showing the world what happened, but also making aware how things can stay hidden, not known or by them being so unbelievable that nobody thinks it shall not be so bad or that it is not going to fulfil, with the knowledge the soup shall never be eaten so hot as it is served.

People have to be aware how modern technological, bureaucratic, and scientific methods, innovations, and even values — the sorts of things we associate with progress and better living, can be employed in the service of ghastly human rights violations when people lose sight of the “forest” of everybody’s common humanity behind all the “trees” of bureaucratic order, technological improvements, and the promise of cultural validation.

Whether or not our industrialized society currently has the conditions for sliding into murderous populism, and therefore it is important to build in educational factors or to foresee enough information can be brought into the open. Even today we still need disturbing eye-openers.

We have to remember how German people’s economic insecurity and deep bitterness in the aftermath of the Versailles treaty were the matrix for the growing seed of Nazism. All throughout the ages people wanted to find scapegoats to give them the guilt for the bad economic situation.
The Nazis arrived with the promise to make Germany great again. Today we can find similar figures as Adolf Hitler, which consider themselves the best leader ever for the nation and for the world. They promise the best life ever for the people who want to vote for them. And they manage to get a lot of people behind them, doing everybody away who does not agree with them, often calling them bad names or saying it are sods and stupid people.  The belittling of others is the greatest asset that such dangerous leaders use to strengthen their power over others. Most upcoming dictators make sure others their saying shall become to be considered false or intentionally brought forward to undermine the system.  We still can see the old tricks are still used today. Emotional propaganda appears to be nearly irresistible as in the previous centuries, and the formula has been used again and again, practically unchanged. Its muted version has worked to elect Trump in the U.S. Its direct adaptation is working great for Putin in Russia, where the state whips up people’s feelings about Soviet sacrifices in WWII, then channels the sentimental energy into a form of patriotism that sees Russia as a long-suffering force of good in a hostile world, bolstering Putin’s power.

“Every debate about the ideals of education is trivial and inconsequential compared to this single ideal: never again Auschwitz,”

wrote German philosopher Theodor Wiesengrund Adorno.

Auschwitz was not the biggest instance of mass murder, nor was it the most efficient, nor was it the first or the last.

Holodomor – Starvation victims of Stalin’s campaign to place farms, villages, and whole towns in Ukraine on blacklists and to prevent them from receiving food. Peasants were forbidden to leave the Ukrainian republic in search of food. The result of Stalin’s campaign was a catastrophe. In spring 1933 death rates in Ukraine spiked. Between 1931 and 1934 at least 5 million people perished of hunger all across the U.S.S.R. Among them, according to a study conducted by a team of Ukrainian demographers, were at least 3.9 million Ukrainians. – People falling death from starvation, Kharkiv, Ukraine, photo by Alexander Wienerberger.Diocesan Archive of Vienna (Diözesanarchiv Wien)/BA Innitzer

Ten years before Auschwitz, there was the man-made famine that convulsed the Soviet republic of Ukraine from 1932 to 1933, peaking in the late spring of 1933, Holodomor, literally “Death by Starvation,” during which Stalin murdered an estimated 3 to 7 million Ukrainian people within that space of two years by confiscating their food supplies. It was part of a broader Soviet famine (1931–34) that also caused mass starvation in the grain-growing regions of Soviet Russia and Kazakhstan.

Genocides did not come to an end with the end of Word War II, neigher did the hatred for people with an other faith or an other skin colour. All civilised countries should make sure their children shall be enugh educated to see what can not be tolerated in a civilised society. Young people shall have come to lern that anti-Semitism can never be tolerated, neither any such hatred against others so that violence against others would be approved.

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Please read also:Is it really true that Anti-Semitism will never be tolerated?

Preceding

75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz

5th World Holocaust Forum

Dedication ceremony for a memorial at Jerusalem’s Sachar Park in honour of the casualties of the Siege of Leningrad

What’s the Future of Holocaust Remembrance?

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Additional reading

  1. January 27 – 70 years ago Not an end yet to genocide
  2. Black page 70 years Release – commemoration Auschwitz
  3. World remembers Auschwitz survivors
  4. Luca Jahier, EESC President on the present intolerance
  5. Polish commemoration of the liberation of the concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz-Birkenau
  6. Seventy-five years ago on January 27
  7. the Soup will not be eaten as hot as it is served
  8. Through the Lens of Faith
  9. Nazi Germany
  10. Christadelphians, the Kindertransport, and Rescue from the Holocaust
  11. Christadelphians’ role in the rescue of Jewish children from Nazi Germany
  12. A Quarter of Europeans are Still Antisemites
  13. Israeli leaders delight in Europe’s cruelty toward refugees
  14. The danger of having less than 25 000 Jews in Belgium

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