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International Holocaust Remembrance Day Offers Time for Reflection

Photo Credit: Wikipedia Commons

This week, millions of people are taking a moment to remember those who died in the Holocaust of World War II. International Holocaust Day was Monday. KSMU's Samantha Nichols has more.

The idea behind the remembrance is to get people to do something about today's humanitarian problems, and to prevent genocide in the future. Millions of people--both Jews and other minorities--were killed during the Holocaust. While the largest group of people to suffer were European Jews, the United Nation's day of remembrance doesn't just focus on the Jewish community. Mara Cohen-Ioannides is author of "Jews of Springfield in the Ozarks."

"The date is the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau. And that of course is a significant moment in the history of the Second World War. This is the moment when there was absolute, irrefutable evidence that the Holocaust had taken place. What makes this problematic for the Jewish community is that it presents the Jew as the victim," Cohen-Ioannides said.

Cohen-Ioannides says there is a widespread perception that the Jewish population is made up of victims who did "nothing to save themselves." She recently toured a Jewish district in Warsaw, Poland, in which a tour guide referred to the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising as "the first ghetto uprising." The guide failed to mention a number of other uprisings and examples of Jewish strength and resistance.

"My family died in the first ghetto uprising. There were many ghettos that stood up and fought back. But we don't hear their stories, because they were small," Cohen-Ioannides said.

Cohen-Ioannides also mentioned the Kindertransport, an opportunity for parents to send their children away from the war. That, too, she says, was a way of fighting back.

But she believes the International Holocaust Remembrance Day should ultimately serve as a good time for reflection.

"I really would like people to consider what actions they could take to stop genocides anywhere, against anyone. That's really the message of that memorial day, to remember those who died, not just those who died in the camps. Remember those who died fighting, remember those who died protecting their families, and to figure out a way so that this doesn't happen again," Cohen-Ioannides said.

In addition to religious minorities, the Nazis targeted Poles, Slavs and gypsies, as well as the mentally ill and physically disabled as part of the Holocaust.