Holocaust Remembrance Day begins the night of Wednesday April 15 this year, when people around the world will commemorate the millions of victims of the Nazis’ World War II extermination campaign that killed two out of three European Jews. Six million Jews were slaughtered during the Holocaust, along with millions of Roma, Slavs, political dissidents, people with disabilities and gays. Known in Israel as Yom HaShoah, the remembrance was established by the Israeli parliament in 1951 to coincide with the liberation of concentration camps in Western Europe and the anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, the largest Jewish-led revolt against the Nazis during the war.
The solemn occasion is typically marked with ceremonies that emphasize the importance of remembering the atrocity and the power of passing on the memories of survivors and their descendants to future generations. As Israeli historian Ben-Zion Dinur once noted, “If we believe that we are to pave the way to the future, then we must first of all not forget.” In honor of this imperative to remember, here are 11 quotes by survivors, writers and leaders to commemorate the victims of the slaughter.
“I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” -- Elie Wiesel
“Six million of our people live on in our hearts. We are their eyes that remember. We are their voice that cries out. The dreadful scenes flow from their dead eyes to our open ones. And those scenes will be remembered exactly as they happened.” -- Shimon Peres
“Escape was not our goal since it was so unrealistic. What we wanted was to survive, to live long enough to tell the world what had happened in Buchenwald.” -- Jack Werber
“We must be listened to: above and beyond our personal experience, we have collectively witnessed a fundamental unexpected event, fundamental precisely because unexpected, not foreseen by anyone. It happened, therefore it can happen again: this is the core of what we have to say. It can happen, and it can happen everywhere.” -- Primo Levi
“Fiction cannot recite the numbing numbers, but it can be that witness, that memory. A storyteller can attempt to tell the human tale, can make a galaxy out of the chaos, can point to the fact that some people survived even as most people died. And can remind us that the swallows still sing around the smokestacks.” -- Jane Yolen
“Thou shalt not be a victim, thou shalt not be a perpetrator, but, above all, thou shalt not be a bystander.” -- Yehuda Bauer
“Nations cannot be saved and must not be saved as an afterthought or from considerations of cost-benefit. Unless the moral fire burns within us, the lessons of the Holocaust will never be learned.” -- Reuven Rivlin
“Even in this place one can survive, and therefore one must want to survive, to tell the story, to bear witness; and that to survive we must force ourselves to save at least the skeleton, the scaffolding, the form of civilization. We are slaves, deprived of every right, exposed to every insult, condemned to certain death, but we still possess one power, and we must defend it with all our strength for it is the last — the power to refuse our consent.” -- Primo Levi
“Survival is a privilege which entails obligations. I am forever asking myself what I can do for those who have not survived.” -- Simon Wiesenthal
“The duty of the survivor is to bear testimony to what happened ... You have to warn people that these things can happen, that evil can be unleashed. Race hatred, violence, idolatries -- they still flourish.” -- Elie Wiesel
“I don't want to have lived in vain like most people. I want to be useful or bring enjoyment to all people, even those I've never met. I want to go on living even after my death!” -- Anne Frank