“Never again” may be the two words most closely associated with the Holocaust. As the late Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel put it, “Never again becomes more than a slogan: It’s a prayer, a promise, a vow.” In order for the world to keep the promise of “never again,” however, it is essential for the international community to embrace another two-word phrase: “We remember.”
Today, on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, we remember the horrors of the Holocaust. We remember the 6 million Jews and 11 million other victims who were murdered by the Nazi regime and its collaborators. We remember to stand against antisemitism and all forms of hatred, xenophobia and genocide.
January 27, 1945
Jan. 27 was designated International Holocaust Remembrance Day by the United Nations because it was on this date in 1945 that Auschwitz-Birkenau was liberated by the Red Army. Located in German-occupied Poland, Auschwitz was the largest Nazi concentration and death camp.
While the events of the Holocaust can sometimes feel like the distant past, for survivors, memories from 75 years ago remain as vivid as ever. Last week, I was in a meeting and heard a survivor speak about the deep personal significance of Jan. 27, 1945. Unexpectedly, another survivor in the room said, “Yes, I know that day well. I consider it my re-birthday. I, too, was liberated on the day.” How powerful those words were to the rest of us sitting there.
Remembering Holocaust Survivors
Of course, “we remember” doesn’t just apply to one day out of the year. Each and every day, we must remember to take care of the survivors in our community; to tell their stories and to ensure that those who have endured so much are living with dignity.
Sadly, it is estimated that 30% of Holocaust survivors in the United States live below the poverty line. At JF&CS Schechter Holocaust Services (SHS), we are committed to ensuring that basic needs—health care, food, clothing, housing—are accessible to every survivor. Furthermore, we believe that the right to have a kosher home and access kosher food, the right to a Jewish burial and the right to celebrate Jewish holidays should never be out of reach for any survivor.
Despite the declining population of survivors, SHS is seeing an increase in need because survivors often live long lives. One study found that, on average, survivors live 7.1 years longer than their counterparts who were not in the Holocaust. As our clients live into their 80s, 90s and beyond, they typically require more support in their everyday lives.
How to Help Survivors
If you would like to help survivors in the Greater Boston area, SHS offers a number of ways to get involved. We are always looking for volunteers to drive survivors to medical appointments, help with grocery shopping and provide companionship. Volunteers are also welcome to work in our Waltham office or lend a helping hand with our monthly social gatherings for Holocaust survivors, known as Café Hakalah.
To start volunteering with JF&CS, please fill out our Volunteer Registration Form and be sure to check the box for “Holocaust survivors and their families” under “Assignment Interests.” Donating to JF&CS is also a wonderful way to help survivors. Thank you so much for your support!
Lora Tarlin is director of JF&CS Schechter Holocaust Services.
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