April 8th 2013 is Holocaust Remembrance Day (aka Yom HaShoah) and begins the ‘The Days of Remembrance of the Victims of the Holocaust’ here in the United States. This year’s theme is Never Again: Heeding The Warning Signs which is a good idea no matter the reasons. Just as humans are capable of great kindness, we are also capable of great evil. We all need to heed the warning signs to try to prevent an immense evil like the Holocaust from happening again.
Looking back at the events of 1938, the signs of impending war and the Holocaust—territorial expansion, disregard for international law, persecution of people based on their identity—are undoubtedly clearer today than they were then. Nonetheless, opportunities for international intervention, such as at the Evian Conference, existed and could have saved many lives. Why did so many countries and individuals fail to respond to the warning signs? And what can we learn from the few who chose to act, despite widespread indifference?
As we reflect on these questions, we remember all whose lives were lost or forever altered by the Holocaust. And we are challenged to think about what might motivate us to respond to warning signs of genocide today. History teaches us that genocide can be prevented if enough people care enough to act. Our choices in response to hatred truly do matter, and together we can help fulfill the promise of “Never Again.”
There are some people who might wonder why I, an atheist, would care about Jewish history.
You don’t have to be Jewish to be the subject of genocide. It isn’t just limited to religion. It can happen if one is in the wrong clan or the wrong skin color. It can also happen without putting people in camps and killing them. If a government ignores the needs of their people and there is mass starving and other deprivations, like we see today in North Korea, can be considered genocide.
It can happen to anyone so we must ALL work to keep it happening again.