‘Learning from the Holocaust: Choosing to act’

KUNSAN AIR BASE, South Korea (AFNS) -- This year, April 12-19 marks the observance of the Holocaust Days of Remembrance, with the official Day of Remembrance taking place April 16.

The Days of Remembrance were established by the U.S. Congress in 1980 to memorialize the 6 million Jews, as well as millions of non-Jewish victims, who were murdered in the Holocaust and suffered Nazi persecution. Each year since then, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum has led the nation in commemorating the Days of Remembrance. This year's theme is “Learning from the Holocaust: Choosing to act.”

During World War II, millions of ordinary people witnessed the crimes of the Holocaust -- in the countryside and city squares, in stores and schools, in homes and workplaces. Across Europe, the Nazis found countless helpers who willingly collaborated or were complicit in their crimes, while far fewer questioned their actions.

The victims had no choice in their fates. Their supporters and rescuers, by contrast, were able to make choices. They chose to risk not only theirs, but their families' lives in an attempt to intervene and help rescue those being persecuted.

By choosing to act, these individuals not only saved the lives of others, but demonstrated what it means to treat one another as human beings. These lessons apply not only to the past, but how to treat each other now.

The Holocaust is not the only genocide to take place in this world. The Native American genocide in the early 19th century, the Rwandan genocide of 1994 and the Indonesian killings from 1965 to 1966 are just a few examples. More recently, Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) is attacking Jewish and Christian people across the world. The horrors of the way these people died have left scars on the hearts and minds of those who loved and knew them; those they shared a bond with.

Those same bonds extend outside of our own local communities, and across the globe. Genocide and discrimination should not sit well with any person of any nation. No matter what our job or station in life, we are all unique and at the same time we are all tied together.

We may look at each other differently because we have different color skin, religions, socioeconomic backgrounds, and so on, but do we have to persecute each other for it? Would it not be better to get to know someone first before we decide who they are as a person? Do we have a right to judge others and put them in a category which requires discrimination or violence against them?

Our hope is that the Holocaust Days of Remembrance will remind all that even though we are different and come from different places in this world, we all have contributions to make to it, no matter how great or small they may be. Rather than play the role of bystander, we must actively pursue a world where we coexist and choose to act against those who would foster hatred and repeat the mistakes of the past.


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