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Yom HaShoah - Remembering the Holocaust, educating the world

by 2nd Lt. Joseph Howell
6th Services Squadron

Monday, Jewish people all over America began the week-long anniversary of reflection on their history as Holocaust Remembrance Week began. All week, organizations and government agencies took time to remember and reflect on the horrendous acts of the Nazis in Europe before and during WW II.

Holocaust Remembrance Week culminates with the Jewish holiday Yom HaShoah. This is the day around the world when Jews remember the Holocaust, or Shoah, as it is also known. On this day we should not only remember, but learn.

In 1933, Europe had a Jewish population of more than nine million. By the end of the war in 1945, six million Jews had been murdered in extermination camps by mobile killing units known as Einsatzgruppen or by other unthinkable means.

These numbers mean close to two of every three Jews in Europe were killed as part of the "Final Solution" - the Nazi plan for ethnic cleansing. Jews were the main focus of Hitler's murderous desires, but not his lone target.

His hatred and distrust of anyone who could taint the "master race" went beyond the Jewish people. A patchwork of political parties, religions and social walks of life made up the undesirables. Regardless of age, anyone known, labeled or thought to be homosexual, Socialist, Jehovah's Witness, Communist, gypsy, Slav, handicapped or mentally ill were all murdered.

The number of people murdered in this tragedy of humanity is, by some estimates, more than 26 million. The number of people victimized in such a horrible way must never be reached again.

Those words, "never again" are often spoken by Jews around the world when they speak of the Holocaust. The words mean to do whatever can be done to prevent it from happening again. To do this everyone must not only remember what happened during the Holocaust, but learn from it as well.

As a Jew, I am happy to remember, but I am also hoping people will learn from this past as well. Learning from, not just remembering the Holocaust is the key to preventing another one from taking place.

We need to look at ourselves and take the lessons we learn and apply them to today's world. We need to learn to not turn away from the abuse and mistreatment of others because they are of a different religion or social walk of life. We need to learn to stand up for the oppressed, speak out on behalf of those being treated inhumanely and we need to learn to not be afraid to do so. This is what Holocaust Remembrance Week is about.

We need to learn to do these things because in America we have become numbed to some of the horrible events that occur around us. We witness violence everyday on TV and in movies. Everyday in the news, we see and hear stories of murder, kidnapping and abuse.

After a while we need to ask ourselves, "When do we say stop? When do we demand an end to these crimes against humanity?"

This is why we must apply what we learn to today's world. As the saying goes-those who do not learn from history are deemed to repeat it.

I believe Holocaust Remembrance Week is a good time for us as Americans to take a step back and recognize the parallels of the past and our present.

Some believe another Holocaust could never take place - that society would not allow it to happen. But since the Holocaust, other mass murders of an unthinkable scale have occurred. No more than 20 years ago, millions were murdered in Africa because of the tribe they belonged to.

We should call Holocaust Remembrance Week, Holocaust Education Week, with more of an emphasis being placed on educating ourselves in the hope of preventing others from walking in the same steps as Hitler.

I encourage everyone to learn something about the Holocaust, its victims or those who liberated the camps. There are many books and websites devoted to them. One I would recommend is the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum's website at www.ushmm.org. Another option is to drive over to St. Petersburg and visit the Florida Holocaust Museum (www.flholocaustmuseum.org).

Learn and remember so each of us can do all in our power to live in a world where these events will happen, "never again."

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