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Holocaust Remembrance Day: Never Forget

When thinking of the holocaust, concentration camps, Jews and the many other horrifying events that surrounded by Hitler and his reign of terror, many words and emotions surface:

Holocaust Remembrance Day
Photograph taken by Vince Alongi, Flicker
Prisoners in the concentration camp at Sachsenhausen Germany, December 19, 1938
Photo provided by Flicker, Marion Doss





And the list goes on and on. Fortunately today, few of us have ever been exposed to such terror and fears. The magnitude of such crimes, we would think, could never possibly happen in today's time. But is that true? Could such racism and hatred magnify into another holocaust event. We would like to hope not. Holocaust Remembrance is to bring back all those feelings of fear and disgust to hopefully keep it from happening again.

Across Europe, the total Jew population, before the war, was estimated to be 8,861,800, with the highest population in Poland. After Hilter was taken down and the prisoners freed, the estimated Jewish population count was fearfully only 5,933,900.

But Hitler's reign of terror was not only targeted to Jews. Many camps contained prisoners of war, blacks, homosexuals and traitors, including people who harbored Jews. The highest death toll was that of children, the elderly and handicap or bedridden men and women. Camps were established as work camps where prisoners either survived in the worst conditions possible or died from starvation, illness or just from giving up the will to live.

We all know the story of the Hitler reign and how it started and drug on for years without intervention. We now know the horrors that went on behind everyone's back and what was masked to appear to be camps that were helping the Jews. We have all read the books, one more horrifying than the next. There are many that have family members who suffered, family that had been displaced or lost because of the horrors. It is something that will never be forgotten.

Persecution and genocide were carried out in all stages. Victims were crowded into ghettos before being transported by freight trains to camps or killed along the way. Once in the camps, some died in gas chambers while other fought to survive day to day, some did and others watched those around them die. Hundreds of children were used for medical experiences, the photos are very disturbing. The experiences were headed by Dr. Josef Mengele in Auschwitz. He performed testing to try to change their eye color, he froze parts of their bodies, injected them with poison and other experiments that will never be known because the records were destroyed.

One Jewish inmate that worked in the hospital where the experiments were conducted, stated, "I remember one set of twins in particular: Guido and Ina, aged about four. One day, Mengele took them away. When they returned, they were in a terrible state, they had been sewn together, back to back, like Siamese twins. Their wounds were infected and oozing pus. They screamed day and night. Then their parents- I remember the mother's name was Stella- managed to get some morphine and they killed the children in order to end their suffering," said Vera Alexander.

Of course, when there is one story, there are thousands to follow. The more power Hitler gained, the more terror was brought down the line. The guards were forceful and demanding - they were heartless.In a speech before the Reichstag in 1895, leader Hermann Ahlwardt called Jews "predators" and they needed to be "exterminated" for the good of the German people. All Jews were stripped of their dignity, land, property, money, homes and most of the time, stripped away from their families. Hitler's goal, of course, was to exterminate all Jews.

As early as 1922, Hilter allegedly told Major Joseph Hall, a journalist, "Once I really am in power, my first and foremost task will be the annihilation of the Jews. As soon as I have the power to do so, I will have gallows built in rows.... Then the Jews will be hanged indiscriminately, and they will remain hanging until they stink...this will continue until all Germany has been completely cleansed of Jews."

We, today, cannot imagine the pain of so many people. We can't imagine being woke in the middle of the night with a gun nudging our side being ordered in the street. We can't imagine having to display our origin or beliefs on our sleeves and having everything in our life stripped away -- and hopefully no one will ever have to experience it.

"The Germans came, the police, and they started banging houses: "Raus, Raus, Juden raus," remembered Abraham Malik. "One baby started to cry.. the other baby started crying. So the mother urinated in her hand and gave the baby a drink to keep quiet. I told the mothers to come out. And one baby was dead.. from fear, the mother choked her own baby."

In the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C., there is one survivor's account that will always be burned in many people's minds. On the second day of Passover, on April 6, 1942, the German's killed 1,600 Jews. This is what one survivor recalls from that day.

"I saw them do the killing. At 5:00 p.m. they gave the command, "fill in the pits." Screams and groans were coming from the pits. Suddenly I saw my neighbor, Ruderman rise from under the soil... His eyes were bloody and he was screaming: "Finish me off!".. A murdered woman lay at my feet. A boy of five years crawled out from under her body and began to scream desperately, "Mommy." That was all I saw until I fell unconscious."

One that same day, a truck driver described his experience,"One after the other, they had to remove their luggage, then their coats, shoes, and outer garments and also underwear..Once undressed, they were led into the ravine which was about 150 meters long and 30 meters wide and a good 15 meters deep... When they reached the bottom of the ravine, they were ordered to lie down on top of Jews who had already been shot. The corpses were literally in layers. A police marksman came along and shot each Jew in the neck with a sub-machine gun.. I saw the marksman stand on layers of corpses and shoot one after another."

There are so many horror stories, one just as bad as the other. Jews have suffered but have also risen from their horrors and are now strong and supported by all. Racism and religion beliefs are still a struggle for some, but hopefully, history will learn from tragedies and such horrors will never again take reign.

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