We remember. We honor. We stand.
In my 9th grade history class, we did a project on the holocaust. Each of us were given an identity of a real Jew in the holocaust. We learned about their lives, their families, their work. We wore a star on our shirts all day, every day, for the duration of the project, to set us apart from the rest of the students in the school.
Some of us were sent to different camps. Some hid. Some became slaves. Some were shot. Some were ripped away from their families. Some watched their families die. Some died trying to protect someone else. Some survived.
There was no rhyme or reason to it. We were issued a card containing our identity, and each day in class, we learned if we survived another day.
I died 4 days into the project. I was shot because I tried to protect my children.
I will never forget the anger I felt that day, as the history I read about and learned about in school became real. I had no control over which identity card I was given or what my outcome would be.
Just as the 11 million innocent people killed in the holocaust had no control over their own futures. They didn’t know what would happen to them, to their families. They didn’t know if they would live or die. They didn’t know if their children would get sick, or starve to death, or be shot…or worse. And why? Because they were Jewish? Or Gypsies? Or black? Or homosexual? Or disabled? Because they were different?
They were killed because somebody else decided they didn’t deserve to live. Somebody else decided they were inferior. Dirty. Untouchable. Unlovable. A blemish on the face of the human race.
So today, we remember the 11 million people – 6 million of whom were Jews – who were murdered simply for living. We honor their lives, their families, their histories, and their memory. And we stand against judgment.
Because judgment breeds hatred. When you judge another human being as inferior, dirty, untouchable or unlovable, a seed of hatred is planted. As you continue to judge, that seed is watered. And soon, what started as you not wanting to associate with “those kinds of people” becomes all-out hatred of an entire population. All because they are different than you.
So today, we remember. We honor. We stand. And we say never again.