January 27 marks the International Holocaust Remembrance Day, where we pay tribute to the memory of Holocaust victims and also reaffirm our global commitment in opposition to antisemitism, racism, and other forms of intolerance.

This year’s theme is “75 years after Auschwitz – Holocaust Education and Remembrance for Global Justice,” since 2020 marks the 75th year of the liberation of the Nazi German Auschwitz concentration and extermination camp.

Back in 2005, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) proclaimed today as a day of commemoration during the United Nations (UN) General Assembly that year.

For this commemoration, UNESCO led an academic conference and commemoration ceremony last January 22. Throughout this week, exhibition, book signing, and film screening events will be conducted. You can check the programme details here.

Auschwitz

Concentration camps were used by Nazi Germany in order to imprison people born of particular races, for example those of Jewish and Austrian descent. This is because of their false view that the Caucasians are the superior race. Jews were the main focus of this distorted view, which is why their utter extermination was aimed for.

Apart from racial basis, the concentration camps also targeted people of Catholics, Jehova’s Witnesses, the disabled, homosexuals, and other people who were deemed “unworthy.”

On the whole, the purpose of the concentration camps was to capture and intimidate leaders of political, social, and cultural movements that are deemed as a threat. Auschwitz is the largest of these concentration camps.

Concentration camps were used by Germans for a variety of purposes including forced manual labour, mass shooting, and medical testing experiments.

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Auschwitz was specifically set up for gassing. In this camp, people were brought into a room, sealed off, and suffocated with poisonous gasses, typically coming from the exhaust of a truck.

On the morning of January 27, 1945, the camps in Auschwitz and Birkenau still contained a total of about 7,000 prisoners. However, by this time, Auschwitz is already witness to the claiming of the lives of millions. Throughout all German concentration camps, six million Jews died during the Holocaust.

Even before their deaths, the people held in these concentration camps were subjected in the worst imaginable conditions: crowding, physical abuse, and undernourishment, just to name a few.

The aftermath 

Now more than seven decades following the mass genocide, UN Member States have taken the collective responsibility to educate the people about the dynamics of crimes like the Holocaust in order to prod the young people away from the development of such hatred-based ideologies.

In the present-day, atrocities remain to be committed on the base of race, sex, gender, religion, and other aspects. This shows that this kind of conversation needs to remain active so as to prevent the emergence of the present-day Auschwitz.

According to the UNESCO 1995 Declaration of Principles on Tolerance, tolerance is “respect, acceptance and appreciation of the rich diversity of our world’s cultures, our forms of expression and ways of being human.”  

The battle to uphold the respect for human rights and to implore people to embrace diversity continues. Together, we can make sure that we are not participating in a losing battle.

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