MILLBURY, Mass. - The world recoginized "Holocaust Remembrance Day" on Thursday. As perhaps the saddest era in human history is looked back upon, we honor, remember and try to drive home the point of "never again'.
The Holocaust, as we know it, was the geocide or systematic state-sponsored murder of approximately six million Jews who lived in Europe at the outbreak of World War II. The horror is this didn't happen in some dark ages tale but in the modern era with people who were exactly the same as everyone else but were swept up in fury of anti-Semitism by the German leader Adolf Hitler.
The German people turned a blind eye toward it, allowing one million children, two million women and three million men of Jewish heritage to be exterminated. Of the nine million Jews in Europe at the start of WWII, only three million survived.
The fact that many of these people were German citizens prior to Hitler was of no consequence. Neither was the fact that many sent to Auschwitz, Dachau and other death factories were German war heroes from WWI.
TheDailyMillbury.com last year carried the story of two of the youngest survivors of the camps, Inge Auerbacher from Germany and Bozenna Urbanowicz Gilbride from Poland. Auerbacher's father served with distinction in WWI and both, as little girls, were thrust into dark worlds of hatred, disease, starvation and death that is unimaginable to the majority of us.
The women wrote a book 'Children of Terror' and chronicled their lives, very different and separate until they share the bond of the camps and the attempts afterward to rebuild shattered lives and families.
After Hitler took power in 1933, the Nazis gradually began stripping Jews of their rights and citizenship. In November 1938, following limited emigration from Germany was "Kristallnacht" or "The Night of Broken Glass." The Nazis sponsored a night of terror targeting Jewish shops and businesses as well as nearly every synagogue in the country that were burned to the ground, shops smashed, people beaten, robbed. Over 30,000 were sent to concentration camps which started the massive emigration from Germany. Most would be forced to turn over all of their posessions in order to leave.
Once WWII started, the Nazis were finally able to implement their Final Solution to the Jewish Question. Their idea was simple - eliminate the Jews from the face of the earth. Eastern Europe was soon full of camps (15,000) - Jewish labor to support their war machine while existing on slave's rations and housing.
Those too young or too old to be worked hard were immediately sent to the gas chambers for execution. In the occupied territories they were walled into ghettos until they cattle-carred them in trains to the death camps. The rest of Europe turned a blind eye or were more than willing to play into the Nazis hands.
In the Soviet Union under the guise of anti-partisan operations, the Germans formed groups called Einsatzgruppen (Task Groups) who were sent out to the rear areas to hunt Jews, Gypsies and other "undesirables". In Russia alone they murdered over 2.2 million people and with the help and active participation of the local populations.
As the war turned badly for Germany, they tried to cover their tracks of their true aim of the camps but the sheer numbers were too much to adequately coverup. Then the Allies began to capture the camps and the horror of what confronted the Allied soldiers shocked even hardened combat veterans who fought across Europe. American soldiers who found such camps were shocked at the brutality, the inhumanity that existed inside. They were ordered, supposedly by General Eisenhower himself, to go inside and every man with a camera was to document as much as possible by taking as many pictures as possible because "somewhere, someday, some SOB is going to say this never happened."
Indeed today, especially in many countries in the Middle East, there exist many that claim the Holocaust is a myth. It is no myth and it really existed and if the facts or pictures make people uncomfortable - good. They should be upset by them, because this type of behavior can never be tolerated or allowed to happen again. The survivors of the camps have a motto and its "Never Again."
Perhaps the most fitting quote was made by a German, Martin Niemoller, a Protestant pastor and social activist. He said after the war that Germans must accept responsibility, and had this to say about the rest turning a blind eye.
When the Nazis came for the communists,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.
When they locked up the social democrats,
I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.
When they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.
When they came for the Jews,
I remained silent;
I wasn't a Jew.
When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out.