Lessons from an anniversary

Today marks the 74th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.

On Jan. 27, 1945, Russian soldiers marched into the series of concentration camps in Poland that made up the most infamous murder scene in history. The three main camps and the series of subcamps surrounding them were the setting for the deaths of an estimated 1.1 million from the opening of the first camp in 1940 until the liberation.

Most died in the gas chambers, but many died of starvation, lynchings, shootings and diseases associated with the camps’ unsanitary conditions.

The vast majority of the victims (more than 900,000) were Jews, but Nazi Germany was comfortable slaughtering Gypsies, homosexuals and any other perceived enemies of the Third Reich. The “Final Solution” was targeted at Jews but the Nazis didn’t mind killing other innocents.

Over 300 Jewish survivors returned to Auschwitz in 2015 to mark the 70th anniversary and to warn that anti-Semitism is on the rise again in Europe and around the world. Many of the new right-wing “nationalists” in Europe are courting anti-Semites.

The major television networks covered the 2015 gathering and it can only be hoped that Auschwitz’s grim setting gave the warning the weight it deserves. Nazi Germany’s murder machine is a graphic example of man’s capability of inhumanity to his fellow man.

It is hard to believe that atrocities on such a grand scale just happened in the last century. The survivors, their stories and the skeleton of Auschwitz’s facilities bear witness to that nightmare in our recent past.

The civilized world must make sure the lesson was permanently learned and that such hatred is never empowered again.

(Sources: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (ushmm.org) and Wikipedia.)

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