Holocaust remembered at Presidio event
May 17, 2012
PRESIDIO OF MONTEREY, Calif. - Days of Remembrance of the European Holocaust perpetrated by Nazi Germany from 1933 to 1945 was observed by the Presidio of Monterey at the Tin Barn auditorium in an afternoon event May 3.
Sponsored by the Presidio of Monterey Equal Opportunity Office, the observance brought to the attention of an audience of predominantly Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center students the national Days of Remembrance.
According to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the Nazis, who came to power in Germany in January 1933, believed that Germans were "racially superior" and that Jewish people, deemed "inferior," were an alien threat to the German community.
"The Holocaust was the systematic, bureaucratic, state-sponsored persecution and murder of approximately six million Jews by the Nazi regime and its collaborators," said guest speaker Avner Even-Zohar, assistant professor of the DLIFLC Hebrew Department.
Even-Zohar said that in addition to Jews, the Nazi regime targeted Slavs, Poles, Serbs, Gypsies, Soviet prisoners of war, members of the Jehovah's Witnesses, homosexuals and the physically disabled.
"Not all victims were Jewish, but all Jews were victims," he said. He noted that "the final solution" is the name Nazis gave to the extermination of all Jewish people.
"They defined the Jews as a race," he said. "Jews were considered a virus, a disease. It was illegal to be Jewish in Nazi Germany, and if you were Jewish your only fate was the gas chamber."
Even-Zohar said Nazis also introduced "the industrialization of the extermination process" by constructing mass execution chambers and crematoriums to dispose of victims bodies.
"They built a chain of concentration camps and extermination camps across Europe," he said. "Efficiency of killing process was the keyword. That is unique in world history."
In a long history of oppression suffered by Jews, he said, the Holocaust experience was without parallel.
"There was no way out," he said. "This is unique. Even during the Spanish Inquisition, Jews could save themselves by converting to Christianity. The Inquisition said to the Jews: You may not live among us as Jews. The Nazis said "You may not live, altogether." This was not a group of militants who were killing some Jews in Eastern Europe. This was the law--a state-sponsored murder of an entire people."
Even-Zohar encouraged service members to check out social media sites such as YouTube and Facebook to further educate themselves on the Holocaust.
Offering another perspective of the Holocaust was DLIFLC student Spc. John Swails, whose father is a historian who teaches about the Holocaust, among other subject.
It was Swails' father that gave him the rare opportunity to visit the holocaust museum Yad v'Shem, which in Hebrew means a memorial and a name, located in Jerusalem.
"It was one of the most memorable and most sobering experiences that I have had. It taught me the importance of practicing remembrance," he said.
In addition to Even-Zohar and Swails, Airman 1st Class Erin Schmidt spoke at the event. She shared her insights from the Holocaust memorial in Berlin and anti-Nazi demonstration in Germany in December.
The annual Days of Remembrance commemoration was established by Congress in 1982. The Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., was established by the same legislation. By Congressional mandate the museum's directors determine the theme for Days of Remembrance celebrations and sponsor events.