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The Holocaust: Why remember so terrible an event? History's mistakes should never be forgotten, lest they be repeated

by Tech. Sgt. Robert L. Young
6th AMW Military Equal Opportunity Office

The mass murder referred to as the Holocaust started Jan. 30, 1933 and ended May 8, 1945. Jews, Gypsies, Serbs, Polish intelligentsia, Jehovah's Witnesses, beggars and the mentally ill were among the 11 million murdered during the Holocaust.

In regard to Jewish victims, 6 million is the figure accepted by most authorities. For non-Jewish civilians (while it is impossible to ascertain the exact number) five million is an approximation. The methods of murder varied. Some were shot in cold blood, others were subjected to medical experiments, but lethal gas poisoning killed most.

So why is it important to remember such an ugly chapter in human history? To ensure it never happens again. By examining the true events that unfolded in Germany prior to and during the Holocaust, we can see how powerful rhetoric can be.

The Holocaust began years before the Nazis came to power, when many German citizens became intolerant of those who were different. When the Nazis did come to power, they found a German society already permeated by anti-Semitism and racism. This included the centuries-old tradition of Christian anti-Semitism, which portrayed the Jew as a "Christ-killer" and "agent of the devil." Citizens listened to rhetoric on how every problem was the Jews' fault and failed to challenge the "scapegoating." These prejudices evolved into the most extreme form of discrimination, "Extermination."

Now each year we designate a number of days to remember the Holocaust and its victims. This year the Holocaust remembrance runs from April 27 through May 4. In remembering the Holocaust, we not only remember the horrible peaks to which it reached but also its subtle beginnings. Intolerance toward those who are different, however small, is detrimental to positive human relations and may grow if left unchallenged. In remembering the Holocaust, we remind ourselves to guard our hearts against the seeds of intolerance.

 

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