International Holocaust Remembrance day brings lessons and memories

Indiana University freshman Gabby Mesnier met with Holocaust survivor Trudy at a March of the Living trip.



Working together to honor Holocaust survivors and remember the ones who have passed, St. Louis teens and people all over the world celebrate International Holocaust Remembrance Day on Jan. 27. On this day, in 1945, one of the largest Holocaust concentration camps, Auschwitz-Birkenau, was liberated by Soviet troops, saving about 7,000 people.

“Six million people were lost in this genocide,”  Marquette High School freshman Tali Gorodetsky said. “Without remembering the lives of all those innocent people killed for no reason, nobody in future generations could learn from this mistake.”

For the past 71 years, survivors have been telling their stories. We do not have much time to hear directly from the survivors because many of them have passed away. As a result, some St. Louis teens are taking the initiative to spread their stories and inform those around them.

“It’s important to educate everyone on the issues that occurred during World War II so that these things will not repeat themselves in the future,” Ladue Horton Watkins High School junior Amanda Kwiatek said.

Designated by a U.N. General Assembly resolution in November 2005, the holiday is meant for every country that is part of the United Nations to honor the victims and encourage education about the Holocaust.

“The remembrance should be taken more seriously in the United States and other countries that have high Jewish populations,” Amanda said. “In Israel, this is a very important topic, and there are many ways that they educate and remember, like moments of silence. This should not just be occurring in Israel, but all over the world.”

With social media, there are numerous ways to get word out about the holiday and honor the victims of this horrific event.

“It is important that we talk about the holiday with everyone and that we post on our favorite social media platform about it so that lots of people can see it,” Tali said. “This is a really big topic, and I think if we do this then we will be able to help.”

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Parkway Central High School sophomore Andrew Mannis said, “As teens, we have incredible amounts of social media at our disposal. Spreading a hashtag or tweeting about the day on a mass-media level would be an amazing way to spread the thoughts for those who were taken in the Holocaust.”

Holocaust victims have a strong impact on those with whom they’re are able to share their story. Teens lucky enough to hear these experiences firsthand feel that they have the power to continue these stories and teach their peers not only about the Holocaust, but also about the truly strong and inspirational people who survived it.

“When I went to Israel, my group heard a speaker who was a survivor of Birkenau,” Amanda said. “Once (she became) an adult, she moved to Israel, and now she lives in a community in Heifetz.

“She always invites people into her home to tell her story on Shabbat. She is really inspiring to me because she shows that people can overcome so many obstacles.”

Remembering is one thing, but educating others and sharing stories is extremely important to continue these traditions and enlighten a generation that may not know much about the Holocaust. Soon, people won’t be able to hear the stories from the survivors who lived it. This reality is setting in for many teens and encouraging them to reach out and continue the stories.

“As Jewish teens, we are leaders in the community and we must do our part to pass the stories down to the next generations of Jews by teaching ourselves the importance of the lessons and stories,” Andrew said.  “We must hear them while we still have firsthand witnesses and survivors.”