If the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz teaches us one lesson, it’s that we must never forget the millions of men, women and children who perished in the Holocaust and never let such atrocities happen again.
That was Pope Francis’s message to the world last Sunday on the eve of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which was observed Jan. 27 on the anniversary of the 1945 Auschwitz liberation in the closing days of World War II.
During its six years of existence, Auschwitz was the site where some 1.1 million Jews were exterminated along with thousands of others, in a systematic and pervasive campaign of genocide by the Nazis that ultimately took the lives of more than 6 million European Jews in death camps and elsewhere.
It was a modern-day horror story that was practically incomprehensible to people who were not there to witness it, including many in this country.
The development of Holocaust museums in cities around the world, including the Museum of Jewish Heritage in lower Manhattan, and the stories of survivors over the years, has fortunately preserved the record for history.
Unfortunately, the evil of anti-Semitism and attacks on religion in general is still with us, with incidents against people and institutions of faith on the rise.
In just the first four weeks of 2020, there were 15 ugly incidents of anti-Semitism in New York City, according to the Anti-Defamation League. Most of the incidents took place in Brooklyn, which has a large and easily identifiable population of Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox Jews. Other incidents took place in Times Square, on subways and on the Staten Island Ferry.
Churches, too, were attacked as the New Year began, with St. Patrick’s Stone Church in Yorktown Heights among the targets of vandals who also damaged a public library, a Presbyterian church and two outdoor menorahs in an early-morning rampage Jan. 4.
Cardinal Dolan, who celebrated Mass at St. Patrick’s Church in Yorktown Heights during a visit a week later, told grateful parishioners that it’s hard to escape the conclusion that “religion, the faith is under attack.”
For that obvious reason, and in the wake of the terrifying Dec. 27 stabbing attack at a Hanukkah celebration in a rabbi’s home in Monsey that left five people hurt, we support efforts to raise public consciousness about the intensifying situation.
This editorial is one such effort.
Another effort was the Jan. 26 talk titled “Auschwitz: Remembering Our Way Forward” offered at the archdiocese-sponsored Sheen Center in partnership with the Museum of Jewish Heritage. The museum also led a private tour this week for the city’s religious leaders, including Cardinal Dolan, of its exhibition “Auschwitz: Not long ago, not far away.”
That’s a sad and chilling reality, and it’s why we join the pope’s call for ongoing reflection and prayer in his words to pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square, “Indifference is inadmissible, remembering is a duty.”
We urge everyone, Catholic or not, to embrace the theme of Holocaust survivors and their descendents: “Never again. Never again.”