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JANET ZHU/THE HOYA

This past Tuesday was the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau and International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Twelve presidents and five prime ministers, including the heads of state from major European nations — Germany, France, the Netherlands, Poland, Austria and Belgium — and some 300 survivors gathered at the former concentration camp-turned museum to honor the day.

Holocaust remembrance is both a particularized and all-encompassing act. As the last generation of survivors and contemporaries passes away, the task falls to those who have no real memories of the Shoah to carry the meaning and import of the world’s most notorious mass murder.

Holocaust remembrance is all the more important as new and vicious waves of anti-Semitism sweep across Europe, the Middle East and all regions of the globe.

These movements take the form of institutionalized political parties, like Jobbik in Hungary and Golden Dawn in Greece, or in acts of terror by violent radicals who firebomb synagogues and attack kosher supermarkets.

Holocaust remembrance is important because it helps us honor communities and cultures against whom acts of violent brutality were perpetrated, and then whitewashed over and forgotten. Holocaust remembrance stands hand-in-hand with those who seek to preserve the memory of the Armenian genocide, Japanese war crimes in the Second World War and other exterminations, even as denialists endeavor to perpetuate revisionist histories in each case.

Holocaust remembrance is important because it reminds us why fighting any and all instances of genocide or ethnic bloodshed — be they Yazidis and Christian minorities attacked in Iraq, the displaced Rohingya in Burma or any people under siege — is so pivotal.

In an age where the rise of anti-Semitism and violent extremism seem to coincide with a weakened American and western resolve to combat arbitrary violence across the globe, the commemoration of genocides like the Holocaust is an opportunity for us to recommit ourselves to the vital battle against bigotry, intolerance and violent zealotry.

When I was 8 years old, I went on vacation with my parents to France. We stopped at an old village in central France, called Oradour-Sur-Glane. Late in World War II, occupying Nazi soldiers had burned down this village and massacred its inhabitants — all 642 of them — in act of retribution for operations conducted by the French resistance.

The French government maintains the remnants of the burned down village as a museum to pay tribute to the tragedy that occurred there. Although I was very young, one detail from that day sticks in my head: the iron gate of the museum’s entrance, above which read a large sign with a single word in both French and English: “Souviens-Toi.” Remember. The same message rang true this week at Auschwitz.

Unfortunately, missing from the gathering at Auschwitz on Tuesday were two pre-eminent world figures: Vladimir Putin and Barack Obama. The former begged a busy schedule and a lack of invitation; the latter was finishing a state visit to India and a trip to Saudi Arabia to pay respects to the late Saudi King.

This was a tragically missed opportunity for both the U.S. and Russia to declare unbending support for a common cause. It was a missed opportunity to stand in solidarity with oppressed peoples, and it was a failure to articulate on the world stage a moral commitment against anti-Semitism and extremism in general. It is this commitment that we need to hear from our leaders now, more than ever.

The clarion call of Holocaust remembrance is just that: remembrance itself, a plea to preserve historical memory and to never, ever forget. The significance of “never again” expresses our duty and obligation to never let such a calamity pass by unnoticed. As Americans, let us recall the unique role our nation played in bringing an end to World War II and the Holocaust. Let us call on our politicians to pledge political, military and diplomatic support to those besieged and persecuted at home and abroad.

And as human beings, let us remember the toll and pain of this event and never, ever forget.

Jonathan Marrow is a freshman in the College.

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