Today is International Holcaust Remembrance Day. It’s also the 67th anniversary of the liberation of the notorious Auschwitz death camp, which was captured by Russian troops on January 27, 1945.
It’s difficult for us to imagine what it must have been like to be one of those soldiers encountering for the first time such a staggering example of man’s inhumanity to man. Dwight Eisenhower, commander of U.S. forces in Europe during World War II, wasn’t present at the liberation of Auschwitz, but he did visit a forced labor camp. He never forgot what he saw there. Several years after the war, he wrote of the experience:
“The same day I saw my first horror camp. It was near the town of Gotha. I have never felt able to describe my emotional reaction when I first came face to face with indisputable evidence of Nazi brutality and ruthless disregard of every shred of decency.
“I visited every nook and cranny of the camp because I felt it my duty to be in a position from then on to testify at firsthand about these things in case there ever grew up at home the belief or assumption that ‘the stories of Nazi brutality were just propaganda.
“Some members of the visiting party were unable to go through the ordeal. I not only did so but as soon as I returned to Patton’s headquarters that evening I sent communications to both Washington and London, urging the two governments to send instantly to Germany a random group of newspaper editors and representative groups from the national legislatures. I felt that the evidence should be immediately placed before the American and British publics in a fashion that would leave no room for cynical doubt.”
Remembering can be painful, but it is necessary. So, today, remember the six million who were killed during the Holocaust simply for being Jewish, as well as the millions of others who fell victim to the Nazis’ evil. Pray for the peace of Jerusalem, and for a day when anti-Semitism is a thing of the past. And pray, too, for peace and security for the nation that rose out of the ashes of the Holocaust — the modern state of Israel, that it may ever stand as a “light unto the nations,” a beacon of freedom and liberty to the world.