Humanity's darkest moment

Shoah is the Hebrew word for "Holocaust" and translates as "calamity" or “catastrophe”, and refers to the mass murder of more than six millions Jews between 1941 and 1945. It was the planned genocide by the Nazi’s in which the Jewish people were to be extinct.

Auschwitz Liberation 27th January 1945
Auschwitz Liberation 27th January 1945

Survivors of the Holocaust behind a barbed wire fence at the Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau in southern Poland, on the day of the camp's liberation by the Red Army, 27th January 1945.

Germany bears full responsibility for these atrocities. Keeping alive the memory of how the Nazis drove their killing machinery to a perfidious perfection and coming to terms with the crimes of National Socialism is the responsibility of every one and, in particular, of those who study German history.

The years 1933 to 1945 were the darkest times in German history. The inhumane acts committed by Germans and in the name of Germany must be permanently remembered and commemorated.

A line must never be drawn under the investigation of the 12-year reign of terror of the Nazi regime.

Surviving eyewitnesses today are those who suffered as children under the cruel Nazi dictatorship. Their story of systematic deportations and mass murder is horrific and harrowing.

It is of utmost importance that the survivors of the Holocaust be heard and that their story be understood. It is a powerful reminder of the time when a people lost its humanity when evil, opportunism, cowardice and ignorance led to targeted genocide.

In 1996, January 27 was established by then German President Roman Herzog as a day of remembrance for the victims of National Socialism. On January 27, 1945, the Auschwitz concentration camp was liberated by Soviet troops. More than 1.1 million people had been murdered in the camp.

The Germans' culture of remembrance and education is considered exemplary. Memorials and monuments that educate people about the atrocities committed during the Nazi era are an important contribution. It is fundamental to maintain a continuous dialogue and to provide public awareness about the Nazi era.

The Shoah must be reappraised again and again. The confrontation with National Socialism must be examined vigorously.

We don't need Sunday speeches, but action, clear words and a courageous attitude. How the Holocaust will be remembered by future generations depends on how we deal with it today.

Recommended Books:

The SS state: The system of German concentration camps by Eugen Kogon

The Holocaust by Laurence Rees

What We Knew by Eric A. Johnson and Karl-Heinz Reuband

We Survived by Eric H. Boehm

And The World Closed Its Doors by David Clay Large

Memorial not monument

The Berlin Holocaust memorial
Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, Berlin

The Holocaust memorial designed by American architect Peter Eisenman, as the central remembrance site next to the Brandenburg Gate. It consists of a field of 2711 concrete pillars of differing heights, some standing aslant, and a below-ground information point where the history of persecution of the Jews is exemplified and illustrated.

Jewish Museum Berlin

Jewish Museum Berlin Liebeskind
Jewish Museum Berlin Liebeskind

The original Jewish Museum in Berlin was founded in 1933. But as soon as 1938 it was closed again by the Nazis. The building reflects a splintered Star of David, the broken line of German-Jewish history since 1933.

The impressive, jagged structure of the Jewish Museum Berlin is a memorial and a work of art at the same time: Daniel Libeskind's deconstructionist architecture expresses the German-Jewish experience and speaks metaphorically of brokenness and resistance.