International Holocaust Remembrance Day
Only very few people were able to survive the horror of the Holocaust. People were killed without exception: men, women and children. It is estimated that the number of victims amounted to 6 million, whereas half of the victims were Polish Jews. Destroyed archives and consistently obliterated traces prevented a thorough record of those who died. Auschwitz-Birkenau was the biggest German concentration camp and the place of Jewish extermination. For many people it became the symbol of terror and genocide.
On 1 November 2005, by the resolution of the General Assembly of the United Nations Organization, the International Holocaust Remembrance Day was established. The date was set to be the 27th of January, the day that Auschwitz-Birkenau camp was liberated in 1945.
The Holocaust Remembrance Day is a challenge, a moral mandate: we must do everything we can to prevent future cutting of the history pages using Cain’s knife and to make the world a place for everyone. Let’s light candles in our windows on the 27th of January, upon the beginning of the Sabbath. Let the flame of memory light our memories and thoughts about those who passed away – wrote Gołda Tencer, General Director of the Shalom Foundation, in her invitation to the first celebration of the Remembrance Day.
The memory of the victims of murders committed by the Nazis during WW2 has been commemorated by the Foundation since 2006. At the Ghetto Heroes Monument, representatives of the state authorities and social and religious organizations lay flowers followed by scouts and students. Representatives of various churches come together in joint ecumenical prayer for those who passed away. The celebrations have been conducted under honorary patronage of the President of Poland and the Mayor of the Capital City of Warsaw.
The official celebrations are accompanied by artistic events featuring, e.g. the world famous cantor Israel Rand and renowned actors, including Krzysztof Gosztyła, Andrzej Seweryn, Zbigniew Zamachowski and Daniel Olbrychski as well as the company of Estera Rachel and Ida Kamińskie Jewish Theatre. In 2010, fragments of the poem by Icchak Kacenelson “The Song of the Murdered Jewish Nation” were presented. The inherent part of the celebrations is “The Memory Flame.” Shalom Foundation calls for lighting candles in every house in the window as well as digital candles on Facebook: The memory flame brings back life, and today it is up to us to prevent the light from dimming.
Celebration of the 3rd International Holocaust Remembrance Day in 2008 was special. With his unusual installation “Lacrimoso”, Jerzy Kalina paid tribute to the murdered. The artist put the photographs from the exhibition “And I Still See Their Faces” under the chunks of ice. Hence, Jewish families looked at us from under the melting ice.
As of 2011, all Shoah victims are commemorated in “The Memory Roll-Call.” The names of those who died: relatives, neighbors and friends are read out on Próżna Street. On 26th and 27th of January, Warsaw’s streets are crossed by the historic tram with the Star of David. The empty car is to remind the citizens of Warsaw about the Jewish neighbors who died in the concentration camps and ghettos. During the every-year celebrations, we bring back the memory of the people who were murdered in the ghettos and concentration camps, we see the shadows of those who are no longer with us. We want to make the Holocaust Remembrance Day a day that gives the hope for better future, for making the world a home for everyone, a place free of intolerance and prejudices.