Out of Auschwitz
This week in history, 65 years ago, Auschwitz concentration camp was liberated by the Soviets. January 27th was International Holocaust Remembrance Day. In an op-ed article for The New York Times, Samuel Pisar, a survivor of Auschwitz and Dachau, writes of his experience when the camps were liberated. Pisar expresses his concern that, as the last living Holocaust survivors are dying, “soon, history will speak about Auschwitz with the impersonal voice of researchers and novelists at best, and at worst in the malevolent register of revisionists and falsifiers who call the Nazi Final Solution a myth”—a process that has already begun. Because survivors are disappearing, Pisar says that “those of us who survived have a duty to transmit to humankind the memory of what we endured in body and soul, to tell our children that the fanaticism and violence that nearly destroyed our universe have the power to enflame theirs, too.”
- Sixty-five years after the Holocaust, why is it still important to remember this tragic event in history? Why do presidents, citizens, students and others continue to commemorate the Holocaust? What are different ways individuals and groups can honor the memory of important historical events?
- Samuel Pisar states that “the Holocaust, which destroyed a people, teaches us that nature, even in its cruelest moments, is benign in comparison with man when he loses his moral compass and his reason.” What is a moral compass? What can the Holocaust teach us about humanity? What point is Pisar trying to make?
- Pisar explains that because survivors are passing away, and because history will soon speak of the Holocaust in an impersonal manner, “those of us who survived have a duty to transmit to humankind the memory of what we endured in body and soul, to tell our children that the fanaticism and violence that nearly destroyed our universe have the power to enflame theirs too.” What does it mean to bear witness? Why is it important? What can be done to ensure that people remember the Holocaust once the survivors have passed away?
- Why do you think learning about the Holocaust is relevant for today’s students? What aspects of the Holocaust are especially relevant for students today? How do you think Pisar would answer this question?
- What types of connections are appropriate to make between the past and the present? Why is it important to explore both the similarities between the past and current events as well as the factors that make each situation unique?