January 27, International Holocaust Remembrance Day

2024-01-27 10:18:55Histori SHKRUAR NGA REDAKSIA VOX
Children in concentration camp uniforms, behind barbed wire. Photo taken in January 1945 in Auschwitz

January 27 is a worldwide day of warning and commemoration of the victims of the Holocaust. Germany commemorates this day since 1996. In Israel, the commemoration started much earlier, on another day.

United Nations: Warning against hatred and racism

In November 2005 the UN General Assembly (Resolution 60/7) declared January 27 International Holocaust Remembrance Day. She declared that "the Holocaust, in which a third of the Jewish people and countless members of other minorities were killed, will always serve as a warning to all people of the dangers of hatred, intolerance, racism and prejudice." Germany and other countries had previously designated it as a day of remembrance.

On January 27, 2006, the first international Holocaust Remembrance Day, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said: "The unparalleled tragedy of the Holocaust cannot be undone. Its memory must be kept alive with shame and horror, as long as human memory lasts".

Why on January 27?

On January 27, 1945, Soviet armed forces, the Red Army, liberated the Nazi concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz-Birkenau. The soldiers found some survivors, the ruins of the gas chambers, the dead and the ashes of the dead. About 1.1 million people were killed in Auschwitz alone. Most of them, about 90 percent, were Jewish, and Auschwitz was only one of many places of internment and mass murder by Nazi Germany in Europe.

By the end of World War II in 1945, more than six million Jews, hundreds of thousands of Sinti and Roma, disabled people, political opponents, people persecuted as homosexuals, criminals or "anti-socials", forced laborers had lost their lives , prisoners of war, Jehovah's Witnesses and countless others. Nazi terror was directed against them.

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan emphasized: "Remembrance is also a prevention for the future. The hell that arose in the Nazi death camps began with hatred, prejudice and anti-Semitism. The memory of these beginnings helps us to keep always keep your eyes open for warning signs".??

Preventing future genocides

January 27th is an obligation for all UN member states to remember persecuted and murdered men, women and children. Resolution 60/7 rejects any form of Holocaust denial. It supports the development of Holocaust remembrance education programs and aims to help prevent future genocides.

Based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the resolution condemns all forms of "religious intolerance, incitement to hatred, oppression or violence against individuals or communities because of their ethnic origin or religious belief" anywhere in the world.

Commemoration in Israel: Yom HaShoa

In Israel the main memorial day is not January 27 but Yom HaShoa, which usually falls in April. For two minutes all over the country sirens sound, buses, cars, everything stops. People are silent, they remember the victims.

The internationally used term Holocaust is derived from Greek and means "completely burned". In Israel there is talk of the shoah, the "catastrophe".

The "Shoah and Jewish Heroism Memorial Day" was first established in 1951 and was more precisely regulated legally in 1959. This day falls in the month of Nisan of the Jewish calendar. It was designated on the basis of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in April 1943. According to Jewish tradition, the day of remembrance begins the evening before. At the commemorative ceremonies, six torches are lit, symbolizing the six million Jewish victims. In the morning, other activities follow at the Yad Vashem memorial near Jerusalem.

On the day of Yom HaShoa in Poland, there is traditionally also a memorial march between the main Auschwitz camp and the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp, about three kilometers away, where most of the people were killed. In this "March of the living" (March of the living) usually thousands of young Jews participate. During the corona pandemic there was a virtual commemoration.

Holocaust Remembrance Day in Germany

After the end of the Second World War and the victory of the Allies against Hitler's Germany, it took another half century: only in 1996, the then German President Roman Herzog declared January 27 a memorial day for the victims of National Socialism. Since then, on this day in public buildings in Germany, flags are flown at half-mast. Many schools cover this topic in lessons.

Since 1996, a commemorative hour has been held in the German parliament for the victims of Nazism on Memorial Day. While in the first years the commemorative speech was given mainly by German politicians, from this year in the place of the hands, many Holocaust survivors and politicians from other countries also speak about their experience before the deputies of the German Bundestag: from Israel, the USA, Poland, France, Spain, Netherlands, Czech Republic, Hungary, Russia or Great Britain. They have recounted poignant experiences ordering, "Never again! Never again!" In 2022, the Speaker of the Israeli Parliament, Mickey Levy, made this call in the plenary hall.

In 2011, a representative of the Sinti and Roma minority spoke for the first time in the German Bundestag. She was Mrs. Weisz. In 2017, two relatives of victims of so-called euthanasia, the planned killing of people with serious illnesses or disabilities, spoke for the first time.

In 2023, for the first time, the focus of the commemorative hour was placed on people who, under Nazism, were persecuted because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

In 2024, there will be talk of intergenerational memory. Eva Szepesi, who was freed from Auschwitz as a child on January 27, 1945, will speak before the Bundestag. Journalist Marcel Reif, whose father survived the Holocaust, will speak about the next generation. DW