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Days of remembrance

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- The month of April has been designated in our country to observe a particular experience profoundly marking our history, known as the Holocaust or Days of Remembrance.

Most people understand the terrible atrocities from this chapter in history, but maybe we should explore the importance of observing and remembering this tragic event.

There is a common proverb which states, "If we don't learn from our past/history, we are doomed to repeat it." When referring to the tragedy which developed into the Holocaust, the thought of reliving that moment is horrifying. What man, woman or child would ever want to repeat this experience again?

The word "Holocaust," from the Greek word "holos" (whole) and "kaustos" (burned), was historically used to describe a sacrificial offering burned on an altar. Since 1945, the word has been adopted to describe the killing of more than six million European Jews -- as well as members of some other persecuted groups, such as Gypsies and homosexuals -- by the German Nazi regime during World War II. Hundreds of thousands of Jews who were able to leave Germany did, while those who remained lived in a constant state of uncertainty and fear.

This unforgettable period lasted from 1933 until 1945, as Nazi leader Adolf Hitler believed Jews were an inferior race and an alien threat to German racial purity and community. It is also believed Hitler blamed the Jews for the World War I defeat in 1918. The Jews were extremely vulnerable considering they were ordered to self-identify by wearing a distinct yellow patch, intended to be a badge of shame. They became routine aim for stigmatization and persecution. They were all living in a daily panic of starvation, disease, neglect or being murdered at gun point. They were forced to live in ghettos with high walls and barbed wire. In addition to widespread unemployment, poverty and hunger, overpopulation made the ghettos breeding grounds for disease such as typhus.

After years of Nazi rule in Germany, during which Jews were consistently victimized, Hitler's ultimate plan or "final solution" of the desolation and execution of the Jews came to fruition. Under the covering of the world war, concentration camps were constructed where extermination or death camps were formed. There were also forced labor camps, mass killing centers, transit camps, and prisoner-of-war camps. The living conditions of all camps were brutal.

The wounds of the Holocaust are known in Hebrew as Shoah -- catastrophic and very slow to heal. Though there were many who "physically" survived this shattering event in our history, we can only imagine the profound and extensive post traumatic damage they suffered the rest of their lives. Not just their lives, but far reaching into the lives of many since this time, even into our current generation.

Let us be vigilant in that we never forget the lessons we have learned from the Holocaust, as to ensure this part of our history will forever remain history.