The Chief Rabbi of Israel Rabbi Sacks has given this speech on the occasion of the International Holocaust Memorial Day and the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz which takes place on 27th January 2020.
‘Time and again the Bible uses the word Zachor / זכור, remember; and that is what we do today, on International Holocaust Memorial Day. We remember the victims of the Holocaust, as well as other victims of the other tragedies human beings have inflicted on one another.
Why is it important to remember? Because memory of the evils of the past is the best way of avoiding evils in the future. We cannot bring the dead back to life, but we can ensure that they did not die in vain. Those who forget may repeat. Those who remember know that we have to find another way.
One of the greatest privileges of my life has been coming to know Holocaust survivors. Most of them lost their families and so they became a family to one another. They helped one another live through the trauma, the loss of all they knew and loved. They had walked, each one of them, through the valley of the shadow of death, yet never have I met people with such a tenacious hold on life.
But what I found most moving was the way in recent years they have shared their memories with others, especially with children, the builders of our future. I can hardly begin to understand the courage it takes to relive the pain of those nightmare years. Yet they have done so, not in hate or bitterness or anger but the opposite. What they’ve wanted to say is: don’t take freedom for granted; cherish it. Don’t take prejudice for granted; challenge it. Don’t stand by in the face of violence and hate; defend the defenceless and show them they are not alone.
Evil happens when people let it happen, and our best defence against it is never to forget where evil leads. That is why International Holocaust Memorial Day was established, and why today, 75 years after the liberation of Auschwitz, we remember what once was, and pray for the strength to ensure that never may such things happen again.’