Apr. 8—The word holocaust has been part of our language for centuries.
It is a great sacrifice, a massive destruction — especially that which has been completely consumed by fire.
That made it the perfect word to explain the immense loss that the Jewish people experienced between 1941 and 1945. Under the Nazi regime in Germany, approximately 6 million people — babies and children, artists and accountants, parents and grandparents — were systematically murdered, most shuttled to camps and burned to ash.
It was the largest genocide in the history of the world. As documented by the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, the Nazi regime killed millions more, including non-Jewish Polish civilians, Roma, Soviet prisoners and civilians, and people with disabilities.
On Thursday, the catastrophe is marked by Holocaust Remembrance Day. In Pennsylvania, it is being commemorated with a virtual ceremony via Zoom.
It is more important than ever to remember what happened 80 years ago. We live too close to forgetting.
Hate crimes against Jews have risen dramatically in recent years. Pittsburgh, where the most deadly act of anti-Semitic violence in the United States occurred at the Tree of Life synagogue in 2018, is living, grieving proof of that.
From Charlottesville, Va., to Poway, Calif., there have been outbreaks of rage that found targets in the Jewish community.
"A common teaching of the Holocaust is 'never forget, never again,' and I think we need to instill that and continue to push for tolerance and acceptance in our society so this doesn't steamroll and get bigger and bigger which, unfortunately, it recently has been," said Hank Baker of the Pennsylvania Jewish Coalition.
We need to recall those lessons because of the potential threat to any targeted group.
During the coronavirus pandemic, which has a death toll worldwide of 2.8 million, those angry, hateful targets for many have been of Asian descent, like the women murdered in Atlanta or the woman beaten outside an apartment building in New York.
We cannot forget the lessons of the Holocaust — that the body count of that harnessed anger was unforgivably vast.
We need to remember the Holocaust not just to honor the loss of life, but to prevent the terrible loss of humanity that made it possible and which can never be allowed to happen again.
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