Every year, January 27 is dedicated to remembering the Holocaust in Germany.
The victims who suffered and died during the rule of the Nazis are remembered and honored by the parliament of the country, Germans, and citizens across the world, especially on Holocaust Memorial Day.
This year, Inge Auerbacher was invited to share her story about the experiences she had during the Holocaust in Germany. She, together with the country’s officials, gathered in the Bundestag, which is the lower house of parliament.
At the time of the Holocaust in Germany, she was just seven years old. In 1942, at such a young age, she was brought to the Theresienstadt concentration camp located in Czechoslovakia.
She shares that up until this day, 80 years after the terrible period of her life, she cannot forget what she went through. She says that “I still have very clear memories of that dark time, a time of terror and hate”.
She was forced to get on board a train destined for Theresienstadt. Around 1,100 people were with her on that train, and she was the youngest one. She doesn’t know how many of them survived the harsh conditions of the concentration camp. But, she is sure that there weren’t many who were as fortunate as her and her parents to have eventually gotten out of that situation alive.
Individuals were temporarily brought to the Theresienstadt concentration camp before being sent to the gas chambers, where victims were killed. Many victims were brought together and ordered to undress themselves. After this, they would be trapped inside the gas chambers filled with Zyklon B gas and left to suffer until their death.
A number of the victims were also sent to Auschwitz, which is another very notorious concentration camp.
Living conditions in the concentration camp were inhumane. It was very dirty and too crowded, resulting in the transmission of various diseases. Epidemics were a common occurrence.
They lived with rats, mice, fleas, and bedbugs. Typhus was prevalent and one of the worst diseases they had to battle with.
Furthermore, they were subjected to forced labor that was too physically demanding, resulting in their eventual death.
She also shared that, at present, antisemitism has found its way back to different countries across the globe. Germany was not spared from this. She likens antisemitism to a disease that needs to be eradicated with the utmost urgency.
Inger Auerbacher wore a butterfly brooch as she gave her speech. The butterfly is a symbol for the 1.5 million Jewish children who were murdered during the Holocaust in Germany.
The music played during the commemoration was also intentionally chosen. Musicians from the Prague Opera played pieces composed by two individuals who were also brought to the Theresienstadt concentration camp. They also performed two songs sung by the Jewish resistance at the time when the Nazis took over Eastern Europe.
Government Officials Stress the Importance of Remembering the Holocaust in Germany
Mickey Levy, the Israeli parliament’s president, also gave a speech during the commemoration. He thanked Inger Auerbacher for “making the incomprehensible comprehensible”. The stories of the victims need to be heard so that citizens will always remember what happened during the Holocaust in Germany. Every generation is responsible for ensuring that these stories are not disregarded and left to be forgotten.
He also says that democracy is fragile and that everyone has the duty to prevent it from collapsing.
Historical revisionism and ethnonationalism were also spoken about by Barbel Bas, the president of Bundestag. He says that what happened during the Holocaust in Germany is relevant to everyone, regardless of nationality and religion. Remembering the many violations of human rights and the atmosphere of hate and terror during that time is to go against xenophobia and antisemitism now.
On the evening before the commemoration, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Germany’s president, visited the Sachsenhausen concentration camp located near the vicinity of Berlin.
He similarly said that the crimes committed during the Nazi era should never be forgotten.
The victims were taken to the concentration camps not because they did anything wrong, but because they had different beliefs and opinions from those who forced themselves into power. The opposition of the authorities, Jews, individuals belonging to the Sinti and Roma, homosexuals, and prisoners of war were punished just for being who they were.
These experiences should always be remembered and never be repeated.
It is then the responsibility of all citizens to go against the beliefs and practices that promote the division of the country. Everyone should be dedicated to the fight against antisemitism, racism, and discrimination.
Germany is not alone in this fight. Other leaders from the European Union promised that they would also address the issues of antisemitism and the historical revisionism of the Holocaust in Germany. These issues became more prevalent during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Less Survivors are Around to Share Their Stories
According to the Holocaust Survivors’ Rights Authority, around 15,000 survivors of the Holocaust in Germany passed away last year. More and more die every year.
Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt says that this is a threat in making individuals who have never experienced the rule of the Nazis or lived under the conditions of the Holocaust know and understand what happened before.
Without survivors sharing their stories, the present is disconnected from the past. This should never be the case because the lessons from the Holocaust are still relevant up to this day. Current and future generations should imbibe the lessons and values so that the past won’t repeat itself.
If these lessons are not carried on, the suffering and deaths experienced by the victims of the Holocaust are reduced to just numbers.
COVID-19 Regulations are Compared to the Nazi Rule
Groups opposing regulations imposed during the COVID-19 pandemic compare these to the atrocities of the Nazi regime. They claim that mandates for vaccination and restrictions on certain activities rob them of their freedom. By being required to get vaccinated, they compare themselves to the Jews who were placed under harsh living conditions and treated as dispensable human beings.
Some individuals also make use of the Nazi slogan “work sets you free” and appropriate it to the current COVID-19 situation. They changed the slogan to “vaccinate sets your free” and “vaccines are safe path to freedom”. Vaccines, they believe, result in the development of diseases and even death.
These statements are problematic because they trivialize the years of suffering and pain that the victims experienced and still remember until this day, even decades after its end. It is insensitive to believe that such a horrific plight is similar to the situation today.
Apart from this, such belief that the current regulations are comparable to the situation during the Nazi era creates a tense atmosphere that pits people with different beliefs against each other. With all the ardor that they feel, rational discourse is left out of the table. Protests can then also become more violent.
A Brief Background on the Holocaust
Adolf Hitler came into power in 1933 after weeding out all other political parties in Germany at that time. Only the Nazi party remained. Later on, after the death of President von Hindenburg, Hitler assumed the role of president. Not only that, he also became the Reich Chancellor and Fuehrer. This means that he is head of the state, government, and the Nazi Party, effectively establishing absolute dictatorship.
The Holocaust in Germany was the systemic killing of millions of Jews in Europe. This was initiated by the Nazis, who seized all of the power at that time.
The Nazis believed that Jews were a threat to the German people. They claimed that the Jews were a race of extraordinarily powerful people that aimed to overthrow Christianity, destroy Germany, and rule over everyone else in the world.
Because of this, it was the responsibility of the Nazis to ensure that this did not happen, and so they decided to kill all the Jews.
This belief was rooted in the conflict between Jews and Christians that has been going on for years. Together with the introduction of the concept of race, they believed that Germany was the superior race. Every other race was held inferior to them, especially the Jews.
Throughout the 12 years that the Nazis ruled over Germany, Jews experienced discrimination, hate, and violence. The conditions they were forced to live in were inhumane just because they were Jews. As a result, around 600 million Jews lost their lives.
As the famous saying goes, “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”. Even if decades have passed by, it is important to never forget all the atrocities against humanity that occurred during the Holocaust in Germany. These are not just numbers, but people who were robbed of their lives.