Monday, April 24, is Holocaust Remembrance Day. St. Thomas community members are encouraged to take time for learning and reflection, not only about the atrocities of the Holocaust, but also of the bravery, courage and love seen amongst those affected by it.
According to My Jewish Learning, six million Jews were killed in the atrocities of the Holocaust, but about 3.5 million survived. Some were liberated from concentration camps at the end of the war, some were working with partisans in the resistance, and some were hidden by righteous gentiles or escaped the Nazis before the Final Solution was fully underway.
For those of Jewish faith, remembrance of the Holocaust goes beyond a memorial observance. Educating the world about societal failures that made the Holocaust possible is critical to preventing history from repeating itself. According to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, “History has shown that wherever anti-Semitism has gone unchecked, the persecution of others has been present or not far behind. Defeating anti-Semitism must be a cause of great importance not only for Jews, but for all people who value humanity and justice.”
Earlier this month, Dr. Timothy Snyder, the Housum Professor of History at Yale University spoke at St. Thomas. He is the author of several award-winning books – including Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin and Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning. This Newsroom article previewed his visit and notes, “In his most recent book, On Tyranny, Snyder argues that today our political order faces new threats, not unlike the totalitarianism of the 20th century. Our one advantage, Snyder argues, is that we might learn from their experience.”
At St. Thomas, our vision is to inspire students to lead, work and serve with the skill and empathy vital to creating a better world. It is only through education and reflection that we can develop the empathy and courage to live out our convictions: to respect the dignity of each person, to create a vibrant diverse community, to work for a more just and inclusive society, and to foster a caring community that supports the well-being of each member.
“For those of us who are Christian, Holocaust Remembrance Day should be a special time to reflect on how the anti-Semitism that fueled the Holocaust was related to the anti-Judaism so deeply rooted in Christian history,” said John Merkle, director of the Jay Phillips Center for Interfaith Learning. “With Pope Francis and other church leaders who have repudiated anti-Judaism and anti-Semitism, I am convinced that we Christians must do whatever we can to foster healthy relations between Christians and Jews. This is central to the mission of the Jay Phillips Center for Interfaith Learning here at St. Thomas, and I am convinced it needs to be a central commitment within Christian communities and organizations throughout our country and the world.”
Here are a number of resources to inspire reflection:
- Read the stories of survivors at HolocaustSurvivors.org. Hear them speak. Look at their family photographs. Peruse the encyclopedia. Read a historical introduction to the Holocaust.
- View the largest collection of video testimonials of Holocaust survivors.
- Reflect on how the Holocaust could happen.
- Check out this visual timeline of the Holocaust.
- Celebrate Helen Colin, liberated from a concentration camp on her 21st birthday.
- Experience a Photo Essay of the Holocaust.