On January 27, 1945, Soviet soldiers entered the concentration camp at Auschwitz, Poland. The unspeakable horrors they came upon would shock the world to its foundations.
At Auschwitz, the Nazis murdered 1.1 million Jews as part of an organized extermination known as the Holocaust. From 1942 to 1945, some six million Jewish lives were snuffed out. Why? Because they were Jewish.
We take this day, not only to remember and mourn the victims of the Holocaust, but also to warn anew of the threat of anti-Semitism, which continues to rear its sinister head.
The number of survivors of the Shoah is dwindling. But that cannot be the end of this annual commemoration. On the contrary, when there are no living witnesses to the horrors of the Holocaust, the danger increases that these terrible events will fade from the world’s consciousness.
We must never let this happen. Why? Because when history is forgotten, it risks repeating itself.
There are acts of anti-Semitism in virtually every corner of the world, including right here at home. According to Statistics Canada, 296 incidents targeting the Jewish population were reported in 2019 –the largest number of any religious group. That figure doesn’t include unreported acts.
But anti-Semitism is just one terrible symptom of the racism and intolerance that gives rise to everything from micro-aggressions to genocide.
The best antidote to violence is prevention through education and inclusion training. Part of that education must be that the Holocaust is an example of intolerance – especially when it goes unchecked, or even tacitly or explicitly sanctioned.
As we witness the alarming decline of democracy, and with it, the withering of respect for human rights, we owe it to the memory of the Holocaust victims, their families and the Jewish community to redouble our efforts to educate, to speak out against incidents of intolerance and to put legislation and policies in place that promote the right to protection from any form of exclusion, inequity or intolerance.
On this International Holocaust Remembrance Day, OPSEU/SEFPO salutes Holocaust survivors and all those who keep the memory of the Shoah alive. We recommit to stamping out anti-Semitism and any form of hatred and helping ensure “never again” means just that: never again.
OPSEU/SEFPO President Warren (Smokey) Thomas
OPSEU/SEFPO First Vice-President/Treasurer Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida