By Jan Radke, American Red Cross

As we observe Holocaust Remembrance Day this week it is hard to imagine the horror and scale of such atrocities.

“Never again!” was the cry of leaders in the United States and around the world after the Holocaust. The Holocaust was a genocide in which Hitler’s Nazi Germany killed about six million Jews. The victims included 1.5 million children and represented about two-thirds of the nine million European Jews. Other victims of Nazi crimes included ethnic Poles, Soviet citizens, and Soviet POWs, other Slavs, Romanis, communists, homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses and mentally and physically disabled people – bringing the total of those murdered to about 11 million.

In the past 150 years, tens of millions of men, women and children have lost their lives in genocides of mass atrocities. Today people are still facing the threat of genocide not because of anything they have done, but because of the color of their skin, their ethnic background or the god they worship.

History doesn’t have to keep repeating itself. The powerful movement in response to the Darfur genocide showed that by acting together, we can bring change to protect innocent men, women and children from brutal regimes.

The British Chief Rabbi expressed the importance of “Never forget!” best:

“Civilization lives by memory. What we forget, we can repeat. What we remember, we can guard against. Only by handing on to our children what we have learned, often at great cost, have we a chance of turning history into a narrative of hope instead of an endless cycle of hatred and bloodshed…What the Holocaust must teach us is not what it means to be a Jew, but what it means to be human – and to acknowledge the humanity of others.”

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