On January 27, 1945, military forces from the Soviet Union liberated the three camps comprising the Auschwitz complex of SS concentration camps: Auschwitz main camp, Auschwitz-Birkenau, and Auschwitz-Monowitz. Between these three camps, the SS (and SS auxiliaries) murdered nearly 1,300,000 people, of which over 90% were European Jews.* The General Assembly of the United Nations, therefore, selected January 27 of each year as International Holocaust Remembrance Day — a day to honor and commemorate the victims of the Holocaust.

This is a day for all of us to reflect on the outcome of unchecked and unrestrained intolerance and hatred. Awareness of the Holocaust should help us understand the impact of social, religious, economic, and political factors on our daily life and how those factors influence the manner in which we treat each other; the Holocaust shows us how quickly the bonds of human decency which should bind us all become broken and shattered.

Learning about the Holocaust (and lessons from the past) should help us all identify current forms of antisemitism, intolerance, and hatred, all of which could threaten and undermine human decency and morality, and ultimately lead to destruction. Reflecting on lessons from the Holocaust should enable each of us to better understand our individual responsibility and obligation to not be bystanders and to ensure that nothing like the Holocaust ever happens again. Today is a day which should reinforce the notion that none of us should stand idly by in the face of antisemitism, racism, or other forms of baseless hatred and intolerance because the consequences of doing nothing are simply too great.

Today, please remember and honor those who perished during the Holocaust, those who selflessly risked their own lives to rescue the oppressed, those who liberated the imprisoned, and those who survived the horrors of the camps.