Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The High Cost of Ignorance

Nescire autem quid antequam sis accedrit, 
id et semper esse puerum. 

"To be ignorant of what occurred before you were born is to remain always a child."  So said Marcus Tullius Cicero.  And so said University of Colorado President George Norlin, in words deemed important enough that they are etched in stone above the west entrance to the library on the CU-Boulder campus that bears Norlin's name, "Who Knows Only His Own Generation Remains Always A Child".

Seventy years ago today, soldiers of the army of the Soviet Union liberated the approximately 7,000 remaining prisoners being held at Auschwitz Concentration Camp.  In expectation of the Soviet army's arrival, the Nazis had spent the previous days and weeks forcibly evacuating thousands of prisoners from the camp and marching them to their deaths.  

Today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day.   As part of the marking of the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, a group of roughly two hundred survivors shall return to that place.  Most of them are in their eighties and nineties.  A considerable number of them are accompanied by a child or a grandchild - an individual to whom they have entrusted the responsibility of keeping alive the memory of what happened to more than one million human beings there, more than six million total, and the fact that it was other human beings who visited those atrocities upon them.  

Whether a member of our family was killed as part of the mass genocide that was the Holocaust or not, each of us alive today carries with us the responsibility of ensuring that what happened only seventy years ago on the continent of Europe is never permitted to occur again.  And not only never permitted to occur on the European continent but, rather, on any continent and anywhere in the world.  


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