Opinion

Day of Remembrance honors victims of Holocaust

"If you saw a fanatical mob pillage and burn a church or synagogue you would not stand silent..."

Thomas E. Dewey in

The New York Times, Nov. 12, 1938

The Days of Remembrance were established by congress in 1980 as our nation's annual commemoration of the victims of the Holocaust. In addition, Congress mandated the creation of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum as a permanent living memorial to the six million Jews as well as millions of others murdered by the Nazi regime and its collaborators.

The 2008 Days of Remembrance commemoration, which runs from April 28 to May 4, has "Do Not Stand Silent: Remembering Kristallnacht 1938" as its theme in honor, and in remembrance, of those individuals who fell victim to Nazi violence and oppression. This year, Holocaust Remembrance Day will be Friday, May 2. It should be noted that in the Jewish calendar, a holiday begins on the sunset of the previous day, so observing Jews will celebrate the Holocaust Remembrance Day on the sunset of Thursday, May 1.

According the the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum's Web site, "Seventy years ago, on Nov. 9-10, 1938, the Nazis staged vicious pogroms (state sanctioned, anti-Jewish riots) called Kristallnacht against the Jewish community of Germany. Initially a cynical reference to alleged Jewish wealth (hence the literal meaning, "Night of Crystal"), the name Kristallnacht (now commonly translated as "Night of Broken Glass") refers to the untold numbers of broken windows of synagogues, Jewish-owned stores, community centers, and homes plundered and destroyed during the pogroms. For over 48 hours, violent mobs made up of Nazi Party officials, Nazi storm troopers, and Hitler Youth dressed in street clothes and joined by some civilians rampaged through the streets of German cities assaulting Jews and vandalizing their property. They destroyed hundreds of synagogues, setting many of them on fire. Under orders to let the fires burn but to prevent the flames from spreading to other buildings, firefighters stood by. Antisemitic mobs smashed shop windows and looted thousands of Jewish-owned stores. They desecrated sacred artifacts such as Torah scrolls and ravaged Jewish cemeteries. About 100 innocent Jews lost their lives in the violence. "Kristallnacht was a turning point in history. The pogroms marked a shift from antisemitic rhetoric to violent, aggressive anti-Jewish measures that would culminate in the Holocaust the systematic, state sponsored murder of Jews. The violence shocked the world that had been hopeful for peace in the aftermath of the Munich agreement less than six weeks before. As President Franklin D. Roosevelt of the United States commented in a press conference on Nov. 15, 1938, 'I myself could scarcely believe that such things could occur in a twentieth century civilization.' The events of Kristallnacht remind us about the need to support democratic institutions in a pluralistic society and raises questions about fairness, justice and the protection of civil rights for all. They also remind us of the need to take action when genocide threatens today. Visit the Holocaust Museum's Committee on Conscience Web site at www.ushmm.org/conscience for more information. It has been said that the Holocaust is not merely a story of destruction and loss; it is a story of an apathetic world and a few rare individuals of extraordinary courage. It is a story of the human spirit and the life that flourished before the Holocaust, struggled during its darkest hours, and ultimately prevailed as survivors rebuilt their lives."

You can hear some of those stories, told first-hand, by attending a series of talks given by Holocaust survivors at Everett Community College.

Several speakers will tell their stories, from noon to 2 p.m., in EvCC's Baker Hall 120. Contact EvCC English instructor Joyce Walker at 425-388-9411 for more information.

n April 30: Henry Friedman With the aid of Ukranian friends, a teenage Henry and his family hid from the Nazis for 18 months.

n May 14: Peter Metzelaar Placing their trust in the Dutch Underground, 8-year-old Peter and his mother were hidden on a small farm in the Netherlands, in a cave in the forest and in a home in The Hague.

n May 28: Noemi Ban - Unable to hide, Noemi was spared from the gas-chamber fate of her family, only to endure Auschwitz, a sub-camp of Buchenwald (Allendorf) and a death march before being liberated.

Take some time next week to observe Holocaust Remembrance Day a day that has been set aside for remembering the victims of the Holocaust and for reminding Americans of what can happen to civilized people when bigotry, hatred and indifference reign.

"Only guard yourself and guard your soul carefully, lest you forget the things your eyes saw, and lest these things depart your heart all of the days of your life. And you shall make them known to you children, and to your children's children."

Dedication in the United States Holocaust Memorial's Hall of Remembrance.

To contact a member of The Marysville Globe/Arlington Times editorial board Stuart Chernis or Scott Frank e-mail forum@marysvilleglobe.com.

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