For a long time now, maybe closer to thirty years, I have carried the Holocaust with me as an almost daily thought and awareness; ever since the day when my then piano teacher held a lecture for me and my schoolmates about how she just the other day had recovered many of the repressed memories of how she was sent to Auschwitz with her mother and sister, got led into the gas chamber, and actually got out again due to some miraculous malfunction in the normally industrial process of murdering people that the Nazis had constructed and administrated.
My piano teacher was a short woman, with a neat and rather small voice, but when she for the first time since it happened told us, about the arrest of her, her sister and her mother, how they were sent by train to southern Poland, the disapperance of her mother, the brief but scarringly terrifying moments in the gas chamber with her little sister, the emptying of the camp when the Red Army closed in on it, the death march they were led out, and abandoned on, the rescue by accidentally being found by a British patrol, her and her sister’s sickness from all their catastrophic privations, she filled the room with something larger than life and her voice riveted all of us – students and teachers alike – until she ended her story and we realised we had been sitting perfectly still several hours in complete silence, and shock. I will never forget that lecture.
It is absolutely imperative that we preserve the memory of what the Holocaust was, how it came to be, who constructed and pursued it, and lastly: what it is today, because we still live with its consequences and the vile heritage of the mindset that made it possible. This is why this date, the 27th of January, to me is a day of contemplation and sorrow. Other days may be dedicated to memories of all sorts of sad or happy events, but no other remembrance date is for remembering a crime in the scale of the Holocaust.