In 1959 as a junior at Verdun American High School in Verdun, France, I joined with my classmates in a recreation room many evenings to watch movies. The film that is seared in my mind showed Jews in the Buchenwald concentration camp being herded towards the ovens to their death.
Those events, shown in grainy black and white news clips, occurred only 16 or 17 years before I was born. As a teenager, sitting there with my classmates, it was difficult to comprehend that the tragic events of what we know today as the holocaust had occurred just a few hundred kilometers away, just about the time that I was born.
Never will I forget those images of men, women and children shuffling towards certain death, guarded by jackbooted German soldiers.
These memories were brought home today, International Holocaust Remembrance Day, a day when politicians and world leaders are making speeches about how we must never forget.
Said U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in Warsaw, Poland, where he paid his respects to Jews who died revolting against German forces in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of 1943, “We can never be indifferent to the face of evil."
“The western alliance which emerged from World War II has committed itself to the assuring the security of all, that this would never happen again,” Tillerson said. “As we mark this day in solemn remembrance, let us repeat the words of our own commitment: Never again. Never again."
But as this article in Time points out, today's observances come amid signs in Europe and beyond that ultra-nationalism and extreme right-wing groups are on the rise. Even here in the U.S. that seems to be the case and many Americans fear that the the Trump presidency shows signs that are eerily similar to events that precipitated the rise of Adolph Hitler and the Nazis.
Apparent hatred of the free press is one of those signs. Continued efforts to quash free speech constitute another.
The death of more than six million Jews and millions of others during World War II must not be forgotten. Ever. But we must do more than simply remember and once a year on January 27 utter some nice words. We must learn from those tragic events and never allow our nation, our treasured nation, to be overcome by hatred, division and fear.