On January 27, 1945, the Red Army liberated Auschwitz-Birkenau the most infamous Nazi extermination camp, freeing the survivors. 1.5 million people were murdered, their bodies destroyed and used for ghoulish experiments. By some estimates, upwards of 90 percent of the victims were Jews.
World leaders and prominent human rights advocates meet in Krakow, Poland today to commemorate the liberation.
The ceremony this year has an air of urgency as Jewish organizations work to ensure that awareness of the Holocaust persists after living memories of it die. This is likely to be the last major anniversary to be attended by both camp survivors and their former Soviet Red Army liberators. Only seven liberators are expected to attend the ceremony Thursday. All of them are in their 90's.
A forum on Thursday, sponsored by the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Israel and the European Jewish Congress, will seek commitments from European leaders to institutionalize the teaching of the Holocaust, drawing on educational programs and materials developed by Yad Vashem.
The effort to commemorate the liberation and remind the world of what took place inside Hitler's Germany is all the more critical as Muslim leaders take up the mantle of holocaust deniers and make spurious parallels between the Nazi genocide and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Teachers are reluctant to teach about the Holocaust in some schools, particularly in France, Belgium and Denmark. Mr. Shalev said that most of his organization's educational exchanges with France are now with the country's private Jewish institutions.
Anti-Semitic attacks are on the rise across Europe, with synogogues and Jewish cemeteries being defaced and bombed, and Jews being openly threatened and in some cities, assaulted.
If you are not Jewish or do not know any Jews or do not really care about what is being said about and done to Jews in certain places today, you may see this day as forgettable or irritating. And let's face it, Jews are not the only victims of genocide, but the scale and reach of the slaughter of six million people whose only crime was they worshiped a separate god is illustrative of what can happen when the world ignores madness.
So if you must, don't think about Auschwitz or Birkenau or Bergen-Belsen. Instead, think Kosovo or Rwanda or Darfur. You still may not care. Then think about your parents or your spouse or your children slaughtered and forgotten and see how you feel.