Remembering the Holocaust

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Today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day. I don’t know if you knew that.

But it just had me reflecting. I think that often times with big tragedies, long ago in history, we have a tendency to say this could never happen to us, that was then and this is now, never again – and all those other sentiments.

But the reality is, none of those things happened in a vacuum. None of those was a moment’s decision that changed the world. I mean, sure those things happen – but even “powder keg” type events like the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, there were still a lot of moving parts. These things are often a lot of little decisions. Sometimes by ordinary people. Sometimes by people we don’t know will be extraordinary until later. Very rarely do we know who history will remember and who they will forget at the time that it’s happening.

The Holocaust was a terrible tragedy where millions of Jews were systematically murdered. There are no two ways around that. And even though we have said, many times, never again, unless we live with our eyes wide open, we make it too easy to let it happen again. Even now around the world, there are problems. Ethnic cleansing is happening in Myanmar. The situation in Syria. And on and on.

I will leave you with a poem and then some recommendations for reading on the Holocaust.

First They Came 

First they came for the Communists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Communist
Then they came for the Socialists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Socialist
Then they came for the trade unionists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a trade unionist
Then they came for the Jews
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Jew
Then they came for me
And there was no one left
To speak out for me

-Martin Niemoller

Martin Niemoller on the Holocaust Remembrance Day

Martin Niemoller

By the way, in case you are curious, I didn’t know this until I was looking this poem up, though I had read the poem many times, but Martin Niemoller was a German pastor. At first he supported Hitler, but then he began to realize there were problems with Hitler and he spoke out against him. He was one of 800 clergy and ecclesiastical lawyers taken to concentration camps for speaking out against Hitler and the Nazis.

His story, I think, illustrates two things. That sometimes the right thing costs us. And that it’s not too late to change your mind if you realize you’ve made a mistake. He could have kept his head down, kept supporting Hitler, but he didn’t. He realized things were wrong and he made a change – even though it cost him. Because of this change of sides, he is considered a controversial figure. People argue about his motives. Ultimately, why he did it is between him and God, but either way, he did change his mind. And I think that’s powerful.

Here are three fiction books I recommend for reading about the Holocaust.

And three non-fiction books.

Instead of asking a question like I usually do, I’d just like you to reflect on history and reflect on our future and what you (and we) can do to contribute to making the world better and not worse. 

Photo By J.D. Noske / Anefo – Nationaal Archief, CC BY-SA 3.0 nl,

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