International Holocaust Remembrance Day 2020

Guard posts and electric fences remain untouched at Auschwitz 75 years after the camp was liberated. When the Allied armies liberated camps, they gave starving prisoners chocolate, which actually poisoned them because they were so malnourished. (Photos by Joseph Wolkin)

The words “Arbeit macht frei,” which means “work sets you free,” still sit above the entrance of the Auschwitz death camp in Poland, 75 years after the Nazis were defeated.
International Holocaust Remembrance Day came into being in 2005 as a result of a United Nations General Assembly resolution. The action was taken that year since it marked the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps and the end of the Holocaust. The date is significant as Jan. 27, 1945, marked the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration and death camp by the Soviet Union’s Red Army.

This year represents the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the notorious Auschwitz death camp, where more than 1 million people were brutally murdered, either by endless medical experiments, through a gas chamber or starved. Needless to say, there will be numerous events commemorating that day on Long Island.

On Jan. 27, the Museum of Jewish Heritage, located at 36 Battery Pl. in New York City, will hold a 9 a.m. event in which Holocaust survivors and other members of the community will gather to watch a live simulcast of the commemoration ceremony broadcast from Auschwitz, Poland. Later, at 3 p.m., the museum’s chief curator and acclaimed Holocaust scholar Robert Jan van Pelt will explore the significance of the types and provenance of artifacts in Auschwitz. His talk will include a discussion of the curatorial decisions that had to be made during the development of this exhibition.

Also in Manhattan, a sold out concert commemorating the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz will take place at 7 p.m. at Temple Emanu-El, 1 E. 65th St. This event is significant not only for the occasion, but also for the fact that Temple Emanu-El of New York is the first reform Jewish congregation in New York City, founded in 1845. Since then, it has served as a flagship congregation in the reform branch of Judaism.

The brick ovens in Auschwitz were utilized by the Nazis in each of their death camps, burning thousands of remains each day.

Preceding that event, the Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center of Nassau County, on Jan. 26, will hold a screening of Jan Karski And The Lords Of Humanity at 1 p.m. This film is about the Polish resistance fighter Jan Karski. It will be followed by commentary from the film’s award-winning director, Slawomir Grünberg. The center is located at 100 Crescent Beach Rd., Glen Cove. Call 516-671-8040 to RSVP a spot, with a $10 suggested donation.

The day comes even as the New York City area has suffered a spate of anti-Semitic incidents, including an attack on Dec. 10, 2019 on a Jersey City kosher grocery, which left four people, including a police officer, dead. The two suspects were also killed in a confrontation with Jersey City police. On Saturday, Dec. 30, a rabbi’s home in Monsey, NY, was attacked, leaving five people wounded, including Josef Neumann, who has been in a coma since the incident and might not ever awaken.

New Yorkers have responded by holding several large rallies, attended by state and local politicians to protest such violence and to rally New Yorkers to the banner of tolerance. An estimated 25,000 people marched across the Brooklyn Bridge and held a rally in Manhattan on Jan. 5 to express solidarity with the victims of the recent crime spree.

Also in conjunction with the International Holocaust Remembrance Day, the U.S. Congress is debating a Holocaust Education Assistance Program fund for the Department of Education to award grants to eligible entities to “carry out Holocaust education programs, and conduct periodic regional workshops to provide teachers with technical assistance on how to incorporate Holocaust education within state and local education standards.”

The bill, H.R. 943, was introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D—NY) and Elise Stefanik (R—NY) and currently has 299 co-sponsors. Last summer, Senators Marco Rubio (R—FLA), Jacky Rosen (D—NV) and Kevin Cramer (R—D) introduced a similar bill in the United States Senate.

Correction: The original version of this story incorrectly said the bill was H.R. 5460 and it had 200 co-sponsors.

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Joe Scotchie
Joe Scotchie is the editor of both The Roslyn News and New Hyde Park Illustrated News. In 2009, he won a New York State Press Association award for a sports feature. Joseph Scotchie’s past publications include biographies of Thomas Wolfe and Richard Weaver and a comprehensive history of the city of Asheville, North Carolina.

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