Days of Remembrance 2014: A time to remember

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Maurice Ingram
  • 509th Bomb Wing Equal Opportunity
The U.S. Congress established the Days of Remembrance as the nation's annual commemoration of the Holocaust. This year's theme is "Confronting the Holocaust: American Responses."

Days of Remembrance is from April 27 to May 4.

"The 2014 Days of Remembrance provide an opportunity to reflect on the relevance of two important events in Holocaust history: the refugee crisis in the spring of 1939 and the deportation of Hungarian Jews five years later," said Kristine Donly, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum's director of national planning. "The American responses to these pivotal moments hold lessons for us today as we remember the past and seek to prevent future genocides."

In May 1939, the American press brought attention to the plight of more than 900 refugees -- the majority were Jews fleeing Nazi persecution -- aboard the St. Louis, a passenger liner that left Hamburg, Germany bound for Cuba. The Jews all had landing permits for Cuba but were not allowed to land in Cuba due to a legal issue.

The passengers desperately sought permission to land in the United States. Denied refuge, the passengers were forced to return to Europe, where nearly one-third died during the Holocaust.

History has shown many other examples where inaction can have dire consequences, as this year also marks the 20th anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda.

We must never underestimate the power we have by getting involved. As a military community we are charged to correct injustices or errors when we become aware of them. This is part of our culture starting with customs and courtesies, dress and appearance and includes programs such sexual assault, fraud waste and abuse and discrimination to name a few.

While it is vital we are physically, mentally and spiritually ready to perform the mission it is just as important for us to be ready to confront wrong when we see it. The "just minding my business" mantra does not work in the military culture, and it demonstrates a lack of resolve and compassion.

"As long as genocide remains a threat, we must continue to ask ourselves about the consequences of action--and of inaction," Donly said.

As we reflect upon the past and look forward to the future let us not forget about our responsibility as citizens and leaders worldwide to confront hatred, prevent genocide, and promote human dignity.

The strength of our society, military and nation lies in the value of our most prized resource - our people. Let us commit ourselves to doing all we can individually and collectively to respect and care for all people so that the cancer of genocide does not invade our ranks again.

Nobel Peace Prize winning author and concentration camp survivor Elie Wiesel once said "neutrality helps the oppressor never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented."