“Survival is a privilege which entails obligations. I am forever asking myself what I can do for those who have not survived.”
-- Simon Wiesenthal, writer
“Unto Every Person There Is a Name”
In January, Haim Roet, Holocaust survivor from the Netherlands, addressed the United Nations as part of the Holocaust Memorial ceremony.
Roet told the General Assembly, “My experiences in the Holocaust led me to think about how we can remember and what can be learned. What does it mean when we are told that six million Jews perished, can anyone really grasp it?”
“With this in mind,” he explained, “I tried to find a way to make the Holocaust more personal, so people can understand the calamity of six million souls murdered for being Jewish.”
While it may be nearly inconceivable for a mind to comprehend the profound devastation in its entirety, perhaps it is possible for a mind to understand in terms of individual stories.
And so Roet initiated the Unto Every Person There Is a Name memorial project. In this ceremony, the names of Holocaust victims, their ages, and their places of birth and death are read out loud in public. It is a deeply moving ritual that has come to be a part of many Yom HaShoah observances in Israel and around the world.
Inaugurated in 1953, Yom Hashoah, is a national memorial day in Israel. Known in English as Holocaust Remembrance Day, it marks the commemoration of the millions of victims of the extermination campaign that killed two out of three European Jews, along with millions of Roma, political dissidents, people with disabilities, homosexuals, and so many others.
In the United States, many state and local governments, military bases, schools, and civic and religious organizations hold remembrance activities for their communities during Week of Remembrance, which runs from the Sunday before Holocaust Remembrance Day through the following Sunday. Days of Remembrance were established by the U.S. Congress as the nation’s annual commemoration of the Holocaust.
The date of Yom HaShoah falls between the anniversary of the Warsaw ghetto uprising and Israeli Independence Day. Ceremonies honor the importance of remembering, the power of sharing memories, and the imperativeness passing them on for the next generation.
"70 years after the Holocaust, there are less and less survivors who can tell their story. These stories must continue to be told. Not only so we can remember the victims, but in order for them to be a constant warning to all, reminding us where blind hate and racism can lead to,” Haim Roet, Holocaust survivor, to the United Nations.
53,000 survivors and witnesses tell their stories
The mission of the USC Shoah Foundation is to overcome prejudice, intolerance, and bigotry--and the suffering they cause--through the educational use of the USC Shoah Foundation's visual history testimonies.
The USC Shoah Foundation's Visual History Archive, available soon from ProQuest, is a fully streaming video collection of more than 53,000 testimonies of survivors and witnesses of the Holocaust and other crimes against humanity.