Remembering the past; protecting the future

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Jimmy Ivey
  • 81st Training Wing equal opportunity office
In 1979, the United States issued a Congressional mandate to establish "Days of Remembrance" in memory of the victims of the Holocaust. Today, it is a moment when we, as a nation, should take to reflect and learn. While this is a time to memorialize those that lost their lives during such a horrible time in human history, it also gives us an opportunity to grow. It reminds us of the ever-present threats to democracy and why we as individuals must be forever watchful and willing to confront hate whenever and wherever it occurs.

It is very difficult for most of us to understand how such atrocities can occur. Yet in pre-World War II Germany, a young democracy made up of ordinary citizens stood by and watched hate grow as a tyrant rose to power. Unchallenged prejudice and hatred grew until it resulted in the mass murder of millions of men, women, and children. It became what we know today as the Holocaust. The vast majority of those murdered were Jews. Millions of others were persecuted and killed simply because the Nazi regime considered them to be politically, racially, or socially unfit.

In a video interview for the U. S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, Holocaust survivor Margit Meissner said, "... at the end of the war, I would have thought that there would never be another Holocaust, that the world was so shocked by what happened, that the world would not permit (it), and yet you see what happened in Bosnia, what happened in Rwanda, what happened in Darfur. So, there's still millions of people being persecuted for their ethnicity." The world continues to witness how hatred and prejudice can grow to become a violent attempt to eradicate certain groups and weaken democracy.

During the 2010 Days of Remembrance ceremony in the Rotunda, President Obama said, "We gather today to mourn the loss of so many lives, celebrate those who saved them, honor those who survived, and contemplate the obligations of the living." As part of the human race, each of us has an obligation that we must take seriously. We cannot be quiet bystanders and do nothing when we witness prejudice and hatred, no matter how small the incident may seem. To ignore the face of hatred is to risk our own future.

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