Holocaust Memorial Day: Change Through Remembrance

Holocaust remebrance and education is crucial to help prevent future acts of genocide

The Holocaust, or Shoah (which in Hebrew means “disaster”), refers to the mass murder of more than 6 million Jews, homosexuals, people with disabilities, gypsies, criminals and political opponents under the German Nazi regime during the Second World War.

The instigator was Adolf Hitler. After the end of the First World War, he was able to attract the crowd by spreading a message of revenge both for German people and the loss of their territories, creating a totalitarian state with strict rules and beliefs. The Führer, his epithet, believed that only the Aryan race – those peoples with pure Indo-European heritage – had the power and the duty to dominate the world. Therefore, in 1935 he promulgated the law for the protection of German blood and German honor which prohibited relationships and marriages between Germans and Jews, considered to be inferior, but it also banned the employment of Jews in all state activities.

At first, Jews were excluded from everyday life and were deported to Poland or ghettos. Then, Nazis devised a structural plan to get rid of those people blamed of being the root of every problem in Germany. In 1941, thus, Nazi occupiers opened the first extermination camp in Chelmno, Poland. In concentration camps, people were treated in an inhuman manner. They were undressed, their hair was cut and they were forced to work in terrible conditions; if unable to help and produce, they would be cruelly shot in front of other workers or they would be put in ovens where toxic gasses provided to kill them.

The International Holocaust Memorial Day in Italy

The date of 27 January has been designated as the International Holocaust Memorial Day to commemorate the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenhau and the end of the persecution of Jews. At first, in 2000, the Italian parliament passed a law to officialy mark January 27 as the Shoah Remembrance Day, to honor all the victims and all the Italians who were deported, imprisoned and killed due to the racial laws instituted during the fascist era. Gradually, all European countries followed through. Finally, in 2006, the United Nations declared the date as international recurrence.

In Italy, during the day, it is usual to organize cultural meetings, both publicly and in schools, to reflect and keep the memory alive: the events entail showings of movies, narrations of real stories by survivors or the reading of some extracts of books such as “The Diary of Anne Frank”.

Nowadays, we live in a society in which still too often diversity is considered to be negative and harmful to our culture, but we should learn from history: what is done cannot be undone, but we can make sure that doesn’t happen again. Knowledge of history is crucial to fully understand the world where we are and this can definitely help us to live our lives and put events into a new perspective.

A choice between good and evil is always possible and it can influence not only our lives, but also those of other people. This is one of the reasons why we must remember. And as one of the survivors of Auschwitz once said:

Holocaust is a book page from which we must not delete the bookmark.