Today commemorates the Nazis’ highly organized effort to rid the world of its entire Jewish population.
They managed to rid the world of most of its European Jews: six million Jews were gassed, shot or died in the ghettos and in concentration camps before the Nazis were stopped in 1945.
One would think that the lessons supposedly learned from the Holocaust would ensure that the world would not tolerate another genocide, but the latter part of the twentieth century proved that genocides were still possible and that the world was not quick to intervene and bring an end to them.
For my grandmother Miep, who is 92 years old and a Holocaust survivor, every day is Holocaust Remembrance Day. She and my late grandfather Arie were in their twenties when Holland became occupied by the Nazis. They managed to escape the Nazis for more than a year, hiding in different places, until, in their last hiding place, a neighbor turned them in.
They spent a horrible year in Tereisenstadt concentration camp, stripped of all human dignity, and separated from their daughter, my aunt, Elizabeth. Grandma lost both her parents and many other family members, almost died of typhus, and still has nightmares every single night.
The word ‘holocaust’ comes from the ancient Greek word for ‘sacrifice by fire’. In the 19th century it was used to refer to mass slaughter, especially by fire. The mass killing of Jews by Nazis was referred to as ‘this holocaust’ in the British parliament in 1943, and by the 1950s the name was widely applied. In Hebrew, we call it ‘the Shoah’, which means ‘the catastrophe’.
Sources: Helium, Peace Pledge Union