Sunday, Jan. 27, marked the International Holocaust Remembrance Day around the globe. Poland, a country who suffered more than most in Europe during the Second World War, remembers all too well.
On Sept. 1, 1939 Nazi troop and armor brigades invaded Poland from the west, while the Soviet Union struck from the east. This would mark the beginning of the terror for Poland, and the day that marks the start of World War II.
In the following months, the Nazi regime would begin building their slave labor and life-ending concentration camps, and Poland would be the site of one of the most infamous concentration camps in history, Auschwitz.
With the construction of the camps finished by early 1941, on July 31, 1941 Hitler’s commander in charge of the German Airforce, Hermann Goering authorized SS Generals and leadership to implement the “complete solution to the Jewish question.”
Auschwitz, in Poland, became one of the most deadly concentration camps during the holocaust, as 1.3 million were estimated to have been imprisoned there, and by the war’s end, 1.1 million had died in the Nazi death camp.
More than 90 percent of the deaths were of Jewish heritage, while Poles, Romani, Sinti and anyone suspected of being homosexual, were also killed at Auschwitz.
On Jan. 27, 1945 Soviet troops liberated the Auschwitz concentration camps, and since then the day has been a day of remembrance, grief and mourning to those who survived and by those who lost everything in the camp.
I bring you this bit of history to address a growing issue in our learning of such events. We should never forget the over-arching effects the Second World War has had on modern history. But the Holocaust is one of the single worst targeted genocides in modern history.
Once the war came to an end the world was forced to face truth — that the Nazis’ anti-Semitic views took it further than anyone thought possible.
With places like Auschwitz, they powered their industrial factories of war with slave labor, committed terrible medical experiments on women and children, and those not able to work were tossed into chambers to suffocate and die.
“First they came for the communists, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me,” said the late Pastor Martin Nielmoller.
We should never forget the Holocaust, the atrocities that defined it nor the horrible men who perpetrated it. We should always teach those who come after why history is so important, because if we do not take its lessons into account we are doomed to repeat it.