Seventy years ago, on January 27th, 1945, Russian soldiers approached the gates of Auschwitz and were astonished. One recounted, "We saw emaciated, tortured, impoverished people. We could tell from their eyes that they were happy to be saved…. Happy that now they weren't threatened by death in a crematorium” (CNN).
The Holocaust. It is the most sickening example of unbridled anti-Semitism the world has ever seen. Six million Jewish People died at the hands of Hitler’s Nazi regime. They died from starvation, execution, torture, and in gas chambers as Hitler’s “solution” to “the Jewish Question.” Sixty-seven percent of the Jewish people in the countries Germany overtook were killed. Individuals with unique lives and stories, murdered.
There were six Nazi “death camps,” all located in Poland. Auschwitz-Birkenau was comprised of three main camps and dozens of sub-camps. Forced to work a minimum 11-hour day, often in the bitter cold, prisoners survived the vicious, maniacal cruelty of guards, and received food rations barely enough to sustain them. Families were torn apart, husbands, wives, and children separated. Children, the elderly, and anyone too weak to work were sent to gas chambers disguised as shower facilities. Crematoriums spewed the smoke of the sickening, heart-wrenching reality amid which the prisoners existed.
As camps were liberated, the world grew aware of the horrors that took place within them. Such reports had to be exaggerations didn’t they? Many people in distant nations thought so. With wisdom and foresight, President Eisenhower made himself an eyewitness to the horrors of the Holocaust, intentionally touring “every nook and cranny” of the camp he visited.
“The things I saw description…. I made the visit deliberately, in order to be in position to give first-hand evidence of these things if ever, in the future, there develops a tendency to charge these allegations merely to ‘propaganda’” (Dwight D Eisenhower Presidential Library).
“I have never felt able to describe my emotional reaction when I first came face to face with indisputable evidence of Nazi brutality and ruthless disregard of every shred of decency...I visited every nook and cranny of the camp because I felt it my duty to be in a position from then on to testify at first-hand about these things in case there ever grew up at home the belief or assumption that the stories of Nazi brutality were just propaganda” (A Teacher’s Guide to the Holocaust).
With uncanny insight, Eisenhower provided evidence and testimony for people we never could have believed would exist, but today are known as Holocaust Deniers.
Remembering the Holocaust
In 2005, the United Nations designated January 27th “an International Day of Commemoration to honor the victims of the Holocaust, and urged Member States to develop educational programs to instill the memory of the tragedy in future generations to prevent genocide from occurring again” ( United Nations) .
We will not forget. We remember those who suffered so unspeakably in the Holocaust. We remember the six million Jewish People whose lives were cruelly taken from them. We remember the survivors whose nightmare followed them through the decades, tainting their freedom. We honor these Holocaust victims with our deepest respect and the survivors with our compassionate prayers.
To learn more about elderly Holocaust survivors in Israel and what Jewish Voice is doing to help, click here.
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