International Holocaust Remembrance Day 2016

On January 27, 1945, Russian troops liberated the infamous Auschwitz concentration camp, where over one million Jewish people lost their life. January 27 marks the official International Holocaust Remembrance Day. On Facebook, I posted pictures commemorating the Jewish victims, survivors, and the non-Jewish rescuers. These images were viewed over 90,000 times, and still counting. May we never forget the six million Jewish victims, the five million non-Jewish victims, and the 25,000 Righteous Among the Nations who risked – and sometimes gave – life and limb to protect their Jewish friends and neighbors.
Irish doctor Robert Collis carrying child Holocaust survivor Zoltan Zinn-Collis, Bergen-Belsen April 1945. After the war, Dr. Collis adopted 5 orphans from Belsen, including Zoltan and his sister.

Many of you may already know this man from the film The Pianist. Wilhelm Hosenfeld was a German Army officer during WWII. He helped hide and rescue several Poles, including Jews, in Nazi-occupied Poland, and is most remembered for helping Polish-Jewish pianist and composer Władysław Szpilman survive hidden, in the ruins of Warsaw during the last months of 1944. He died in the hands of the Soviets shortly after the war, although the details are unknown.

In 1939, Nicholas Winton visited Prague at the invitation of a friend from the British Embassy and was alarmed by the influx of refugees, endangered by the impending Nazi invasion. He took it upon himself to organize the Czech Kindertransport, managing to save 669 children in the year before World War II broke out. He found each of them foster parents in England and Sweden, and only regretted he was unable to save more.
Decades later, he was featured on a British TV show called That’s Life. Unbeknownst to him, hundreds of the children he saved were in the audience. [You can find this clip on YouTube] Nicholas died in July 2015, at the age of 106.

Out of all of the Holocaust memorials, this one in Budapest, Hungary has hit me the most. Built in 2005, these iron shoes on the bank of the Danube mark some of Hungary’s darkest periods. Hundreds of Hungarian Jews were forced to leave their shoes on the bank before they were driven into the river by Hungarian militiamen.
Credit: AFP / Getty Images ATTILA KISBENEDEK

A beautiful young woman after being liberated from Bergen-Belsen, in April 1945. Bergen Belsen was liberated by the British, and is known as one of the biggest medical reliefs in history. (You can view the film The Relief of Belsen on Amazon Prime.)

This sweet lady is Irena Sendler. Over the course of 18 months, Irena smuggeld 2,500 Jewish children out of the Warsaw Ghetto during the Holocaust. As a social worker, she was one of the few Polish people allowed inside the ghetto. She smuggled children out in everything from potato sacks to tool boxes. When babies cried, she trained her dog to bark to drown the noise. She placed them in Polish homes, orphanages, and convents, and wrote down their false names, real names, and location in a jar.

Although she was eventually caught, Irena and all of the children she saved survived the war, although many of the children’s parents died in concentration camps. When asked why she did it, she said, “I was brought up to believe a person must be rescued when drowning, regardless of religion and nationality.” Her life was made into the inspiring Hallmark Hall of Fame film The Courageous Heart of Irena Sendler, and the picture books Irena Sendler and the Children of the Warsaw Ghetto and Irena’s Jars of Secrets.

You can also see my Facebook posts from April 2015’s Holocaust Remembrance Day. For more information on the Holocaust, check out 18 Holocaust Rescuers: Their Stories, Movies, and Memoirs. For grades 5-8, check out a list of my favorite Holocaust novels.

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