The topic is terribly depressing, I know. But it's also one that cannot be ignored. Today, January 27, is known officially as Holocaust Remembrance Day. This day of remembrance was designated into history in 2005 by the UN General Assembly due to the fact that this date falls on the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau.
Thus, on this annual day of commemoration, every member state of the UN has an obligation to honor the victims of the Nazi era and to develop educational programs to help prevent future genocides. I won't torment you with pictures and images of the suffering and the terror that ensued; I'm sure you've all seen enough of those images to last a lifetime. Each and every one has been imprinted into my memory.
To education yourself, you can read Elie Wiesel's heart-wrenching novel Night, or I'm sure you've already read Anne Frank's classic The Diary of a Young Girl. Also particularly moving and one of my favorite reads from graduate school was Viktor Frankl's existential masterpiece which reflects greatly on his experiences as a concentration camp inmate and how he found the psychological will to live in what I believe is his greatest work, Man's Search for Meaning.
There are various Holocaust museums throughout the world that are certainly worth a visit and there are many more than you might think. Click on this link for a worldwide directory of Holocaust museums. You will be surprised to find over 50 museums around the world, and likely one not too far from your neighborhood. Of course, the most famous include Washington D.C.'s United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and Jerusalem's Yad Vashem, which is perhaps the most touching of them all.
And you really don't even need to go to a museum to capture the meaning of this day. So long as the victims are remembered and so long as the history is passed down to future generations, then you have done your part in preserving the memory of the 6 million generations of people who will never be. Who knows how many Mozarts and Bachs were lost, how many doctors with possible cures there could have been, and how many mothers to future generations of children never came to be. I think that's what gets me most of all, is imagining the sheer number of people - which would amount to 32 million today (instead of the current 13 million) - that would never come into existence.
I personally appreciate seeing personalized and specific examples of the more hopeful cases of the Holocaust and one such example is the film Nicky's Family, which I viewed last summer here at the Jerusalem Film Festival and which recently won Best Documentary Film at the Montreal Film Festival as well as the Audience Choice Award at Karlovy Vary International Film Festival. I'm not quite sure how you can get a copy of the film presently, but you can see a trailer on the film's website, click here. This is one of the best films I have ever seen, and though you will find yourself weeping throughout the film, it's also lined with the kind of inspiration and hope that makes you look eagerly towards the future.