Jewish organizations took part in International Holocaust Remembrance Day commemorations today, with the president of the World Jewish Congress leading with thoughts for the future..
“World Holocaust Day is meaningless if we only pay attention to the past and ignore the same problems that threaten us today,” Ronald Lauder said.
Moshe Kantor, head of the European Jewish Congress, used the occasion to draw awareness of the “quenelle” neo-Nazi salute trend that has made headlines in recent weeks.
“Today, we are witness to the absolute democratization of anti-Semitism. A simple inversed Nazi salute performed with impunity at Auschwitz, at the Berlin Holocaust memorial, at a synagogue and even in front of the Jewish school in Toulouse where Jewish children and a teacher were murdered in broad daylight by a French terrorist,” he said.
“A symbol invented by a so-called comedian which allows young people out for a drink, soldiers having a laugh and even a footballer scoring a goal to have their own unique opportunity for Jew hatred.”
Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust trust, echoed the comments, with chairman Avner Shalev saying, “For many Holocaust survivors and their families, Pages of Testimony are the only tangible evidence that their murdered loved ones once lived.”
“The Nazis and their collaborators strove to murder each and every Jewish man, woman and child and to erase any vestige of their existence. These pages, together with information gathered from around the world as part of our names recovery efforts, restore to them their names – their identities. We will continue our efforts to bring the names and identities of the victims back from oblivion as long as we are able to do so. I urge anyone who has not yet submitted Pages of Testimony to do so now.”
And the AJC put out its own statement in poetic form. Titled “We Remember,” the piece called out to the lessons from the Shoah we must carry with us, from “the six million Jewish martyrs” to “the importance of speaking out against intolerance.”
The piece in its entirety:
In the Jewish tradition, we are commanded to remember (zachor) and not to forget (lo tishkach). On January 27, we commemorate International Holocaust Remembrance Day. On this solemn occasion, 69 years after the liberation of Auschwitz:
We remember the six million Jewish martyrs, including 1.5 million children, who were exterminated in the Holocaust.
We remember the entirely new alphabet created by the Nazis for the Final Solution — from the letter “A” for Auschwitz to the letter “Z” for Zyklon-B.
We remember not only the tragic deaths of the six million Jews, but also their vibrant lives—as shopkeepers and craftsmen, scientists and authors, teachers and students, parents and children, husbands and wives.
We remember the richly hued and ancient Jewish civilizations that were destroyed—from Salonika to Vilna, from Amsterdam to Prague.
We remember the slippery slope that began with the rantings of an obscure Austrian-born anti-Semite named Adolf Hitler and led, in the course of less than 15 years, to his absolute control over Germany.
We remember the fertile soil of European anti-Semitism—cultivated over centuries by cultural, political, and religious voices—that created an all-too-receptive climate for the Nazi objective of eliminating the Jewish people.
We remember the courage of Denmark, as well as Albania, Bulgaria, and Finland, for their extraordinary efforts to protect their own Jewish communities.
We remember the courage of thousands of Righteous Persons—whom we call, in Hebrew, Hasidei Umot Ha’olam—who risked their own lives that others might live.
We remember the millions of non-Jews—Poles and Russians, Roma and the disabled, political opponents and homosexuals—murdered under the relentless Nazi onslaught.
We remember the valiant soldiers of the Allied nations who, at such great human cost, vanquished the Third Reich.
We remember the survivors of the death camps, who endured such unimaginable suffering and who have inspired us all with their indomitable courage, spirit, and will to live.
We remember the absence of an Israel in those war-time years—an Israel that, had it existed, would have provided a haven when so shamefully few countries were willing to accept Jewish refugees.
We shall never forget those who perished.
We shall never forget those who saved even a single life. As it is written in the Talmud: “He who saves one life has saved the world.”
We shall never forget the importance of speaking out against intolerance, whenever and wherever it occurs.
We shall never forget the inextricable link among democracy, the rule of law, and protection of human rights.
We shall never forget the age-old prophetic vision of a world of justice, harmony, and peace.
And we shall never forget that each of us, in ways large and small, can help bring us closer to the realization of that prophetic vision.