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In the Jewish tradition, we are commanded to remember (
zachor) and not to forget (
lo tishkach). This week we commemorate Yom HaShoah, the Day of Holocaust Remembrance. On this solemn occasion, 68 years after the end of World War II: We remember the six million Jewish martyrs, including 1.5 million children, who were exterminated in the Holocaust.
We remember not only their tragic deaths but also their vibrant lives—as shopkeepers and craftsmen, scientists and authors, teachers and students, parents and children, husbands and wives.
We remember the richly hued and ancient Jewish civilizations that were destroyed—from Salonika,
We remember the slippery slope that began with the rantings of an obscure Austrian-born anti-Semite named
Adolf Hitler and led, in the course of less than 15 years, to his absolute control over
We remember the fertile soil of European anti-Semitism—cultivated over centuries by cultural, political, and religious voices—that created an all-too-receptive climate for the Nazi objective of eliminating the Jewish people.
We remember the courage of
Denmark, as well as
Finland, for their extraordinary efforts to protect their own Jewish communities.
We remember the courage of thousands of Righteous Persons who risked their own lives that others might live.
We remember the millions of non-Jews—Poles and Russians,
Roma and the disabled, political opponents and homosexuals—murdered under the relentless Nazi onslaught.
We remember the valiant soldiers of the Allied nations who, at such great human cost, vanquished the Third Reich.