Staff Editorial    April 23, 1998

Remembering the Holocaust

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Yom Ha'shoah

IDS Editorial Staff

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Today marks the observance of Yom Ha'Shoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. The word Shoah literally refers to destruction but is often used to describe extermination by fire, as is the word Holocaust. In memory of the millions who were exterminated in the Nazi Holocaust, which took place before and during World War II, the Helene G. Simon Hillel Center, 730 E. Third St., and the Robert A. and Sandra S. Borns Jewish Studies Program are sponsoring a names reading ceremony from noon to 7 p.m. today in front of the IU Art Museum.

Reading the names -- names of only a small fraction of the 6 million Jews who were murdered in Nazi Germany -- reminds us the Jews who died in the Nazi genocide are not just another statistic. The victims were real people, with names, lives, families, hopes and fears, who suffered the most horrible death of burning in Nazi ovens. Reading their names and remembering they were individuals, not just statistics, is vital to our understanding of this most horrible part of our century's history.

According to historians' consensus, nearly 12 million people died during the Nazi Holocaust, including Jews, Gypsies, Catholics, homosexuals and invalids. These millions of people were annihilated because the Nazis believed people of Aryan descent were racially and ethnically superior. But ethnic and racial genocide are not horrors from the distant past. We only need to remember back to 1997, when half a million Rwandan Tutsis were killed because of their tribal origin, or to the war in the former Yugoslavia, where łethnic cleansing" has destroyed the lives and livelihoods of millions. Closer still are the intolerance and hate crimes of white supremacists, which threaten to repeat these terrible crimes in our own age, in our own nation. Genocide, the most appalling of crimes against humanity, is by no means an ancient crime. Intolerance, hatred and bigotry are not distant from us.

Today's names reading ceremony and the memorial service this evening at Hillel are vital to the prevention of a future Holocaust. The philosopher Santyana is best remembered for his belief that those who fail to remember history's horrors are doomed to repeat them. We, as Americans, dedicated to the pursuit of freedom, and as humans, dedicated to the preservation of humanity, cannot forget the crimes of the past, lest we, too, are doomed to repeat them.

©1998 Indiana Daily Student