A poignant reflection on Holocaust Memorial Day

I was three or maybe four years old when I noticed them for the first time, the row of numbers on my grandmother’s arm. She was very young when she was taken to the Nazi concentration camps, firstly to Buchenwald and later moved to Ravensbrück , both Labour camps for women in Nazi Germany.

My grandmother died in 1987, when I was almost five years old. I remember her as very kind, hard-working and a good woman, not very talkative, rather quiet and shy. Someone who liked to keep herself to herself.

It took me some time before I learned the meaning of those numbers. My grandma never spoke about it and my parents told us not to ask, we just knew they represented an evil time from her life in the past, a time during which she lost her mother, sister and her youth.

Sometimes I think she lost a lot more as no human being should be subjected to what was happening to people in those camps.

I always wondered why my grandma didn’t want to share her story with me, my sisters or my brother. As I got older I understood that she was protecting all of us from the unimaginable and horrible experiences she had.

Later in my life, at school I learned about World War II, the camps and I understood that you don’t want your grandchildren or any other people to know how inhumane some of us were or can be. We all prefer not to think or remember about those bad times in our lives, don’t we?

But today and any other day we should remember the victims and survivors of those times in human history that no one should allow ever to happen again.

Holocaust Memorial Day; January 27 marks the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi death camp.

It is a day when we should think about the past, take a moment to stop and think about those millions of people who died or those whose lives were changed beyond recognition during the Holocaust, Nazi Persecution, genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia Vietnam and others.

Holocaust Memorial Day was established in May 1998: Sweden, Great Britain and the USA set up the “task force for International Co-operation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research.” They were later joined by Germany, Israel, Poland, the Netherlands, France and Italy.

During the Washington Conference on Holocaust-Era Assets in December 1998, the members issued a joint declaration stating, amongst other things, that “Holocaust education, remembrance and research strengthen humanity’s ability to absorb and learn from the dark lessons of the past, so that we can ensure that similar horrors are never again repeated.”

Other countries were asked to strengthen their efforts and to make sure that nothing like this will happen again.

History has already proved that we can be cruel, evil and brutal, that we can murder each other in the name of politics, greed or believes. Do we really want to repeat this? NO!

We all need to remember that no matter where we are from, what language we speak, which God we believe in, we are all human beings. And by respecting and learning from each other and from the past we will never repeat these same mistakes again.