This is the official time of mourning over the Nazi Holocaust, which took place more than sixty years ago, but is not forgotten, and never will be. Jews often hear that they should "get over it already" and let the Holocaust recede into the past, along with the many other brutalities and tragedies of history. But the Holocaust must not be relegated to that historic dustbin, no matter how many wish that it would be gone and forgotten.
Many reasons can be given for the ongoing attention to the Holocaust. Even after so many decades, we are learning new dimensions of the event. For example, Yad Vashem, Israel's Holocaust memorial museum, has been studying the "killing fields" where many European nations joined the Nazis in executing Jews merely for being Jewish. As time takes its toll on the remaining survivors of the Holocaust, we must record their stories before it is too late, so that we can understand, and learn, what truly happened.
Nor was it only Jews who were abused and sent to concentration camps; the Romany people, commonly called Gypsies, were so treated, as were some priests and ministers, labor union leaders, those considered mentally or physically defective, and anyone objecting to the Nazi regime. But for the Jews there was a special role, that of eternal scapegoats, as they still are today in Iran, whose leaders have decreed that Jews have no right to a nation. Meanwhile, a well-known Austrian writer is on trial for not only denying the Holocaust, but for praising Hitler's Final Solution as well.
Nor was the Nazi Holocaust the only such atrocity of the Twentieth Century. The Turks killed over one million Armenians early in that Century, and when Hitler was asked how he could get away with the Final Solution to the Jewish Question, he asked his henchmen, "Who remembers the Armenians?" The Soviet leader Josef Stalin killed tens of millions of his own citizens during the decades when he was in power. More recently, the world has seen genocide in Rwanda, Somalia, and other African nations.
There is one overriding lesson of the Holocaust which the world has yet to learn. Contrary to the myth that the Nazi atrocities were unique, they were rather the logical conclusion of nearly two thousand years of anti-semitism and mistreatment: the inquisition, the expulsions, the pogroms, and many other earlier abuses directed at Jews. It is far too easy to dismiss the Holocaust as the result of Nazi bestiality, when in truth beasts do not behave in this fashion, only humans do so.
Those people in many European nations who joined the Nazis during the Holocaust had had Jewish friends and neighbors for decades, even centuries. We need to understand how someone can sell groceries to such neighbors one day, and shoot their men and women the next. We need to understand how Jewish and non-Jewish children could play together, and shortly afterwards the Jewish children could be executed by their non-Jewish friends' parents. The lesson to be learned is that, sadly, anyone can be a Nazi; they were not necessarily degenerates, they were much like us.
Until that lesson is learned once and for all, and no future genocides are perpetrated, each of us must vow: Never Again! And we must mean that vow, and we must act on it. Those are our obligations, not only to all of the victims of the Holocaust and other genocides, but to ourselves as well.