International Holocaust Remembrance Day marks the anniversary of the liberation of the the largest Nazi death camp in Aushwitz-Birkenau (Poland) on January 27, 1945.
For decades, the Jewish people fought tenaciously to tell the world about the Holocaust (also known as The Shoah), during which in evil regime consisting of ordinary people caught up in the death spiral of a few maniacal military leaders all but wiped the Jews off the face of the earth.
To the survivors and their descendants, the world owes a great debt.
If not for them insisting – often in the face of great opposition – on telling their story, we would not today be able to learn from the mistakes of the past.
Yes, there are still genocides and mass killings occuring around the world. But at least, where this knowledge exists, people genuinely seek to avoid the mistakes of the past that lead to such human carnage.
And as this unspeakable atrocity continues to be studied, the full extent of the Nazi killing machine is revealed.
"Today we remember and condemn the horrible crimes inflicted by the Nazi regime on millions of Jews and millions of other victims of Hitler's regime, including Ukrainians, Roma, homosexuals, Catholics, Poles, and disabled persons," said Paul Grod, President of the Ukrainain Canadian Congress.
"The murderous acts of terror committed by the Nazi regime against millions of Eastern and Central Europeans remind us of carnage inflicted by both Soviet and Nazi totalitarian regimes in a very short time period on innocent populations," he said.
Yet the horror and the fear of the times could not entirely destroy the human capacity for good.
"Even in the face of such evil, many Ukrainians risked their lives to help their neighbours, earning thousands of them the title of "Righteous among the Nations," said Grod.
The designation Righteous among the Nations is bestowed by Yad Vashem, the Jewish people’s living memorial to the Holocaust, on Gentiles who sheltered Jews from the Nazis despite the danger to themselves and their familes.
It is a source of pride that the fourth largest number of "Righteous among the Nations" are some 2,272 Ukrainians honoured at Yad Vashem (The Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority).
Yet, "pride" isn't exactly the right word. These people were just doing the right thing, rather than the natural thing. No doubt, in the manner of all heroes, they would simply consider that they had no other choice than to do the right thing.
Would that we all adopt such an attitude.
At the very least, we can resolve to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past.
"We must never waiver in our commitment to honour the memory of the millions of victims and survivors of Hitler's terror," said Grod. "We must ensure that the memory of these victims is recognized to ensure that the world never forgets."
Indeed. Вічная пам`ять.