Remembering The Holocaust

This week we acknowledged the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz on 27 January 1945. It is a major event in remembering the Holocaust. Survivors, mostly children at the time of the liberation, gathered at the death camp in Poland. The BBC reported that one survivor, Roman Kent, born in 1929, told the gathering why he was there:

“We survivors do not want our past to be our children’s future”.

I spent Christmas in the UK. I visited the Imperial War Museum in London and spent most of the day there looking around two very notable exhibitions: one, the WWI Exhibit and the other the Holocaust Exhibit.

The Holocaust exhibit left me emotionally drained—you become a witness to the ultimate result of intolerance and racism. It is indeed the seemingly acceptable murder of children that leaves me most incredulous to the depth of the cruelty exhibited by the Germans and the Nazis.

Holocaust is an old world in English having been around since the 13th century. It meant sacrifice by fire. Its biblical sense was a burnt offering. It derived from the Greek word holokauston meaning a thing wholly burnt from holos, meaning whole and kaustos to burn. It gained the wider sense of a massacre or destruction of a large number of persons in 1833.

The Holocaust as the title for the Nazi genocide of European Jews in World War II was first recorded 1957. It had been known up to then by the Hebrew word Shoah for catastrophe although holocaust had been used in English to refer to Hitler’s Jewish extermination policies from 1942. The idea of a race of people being wholly burnt is a powerful and sadly accurate description for the Nazi genocide of European Jews.

We certainly must remember The Holocaust. Its purpose-built crematoriums, that burnt nations of people—men, women and children—remind us of the outcome of unchecked cruelty, inhumanity and prejudice.