By Mr. Bryan Gatchell (IMCOM)April 26, 2013
ANSBACH, Germany (April 26, 2013) -- "I told him that I did not believe that they could burn people in our age, that humanity would never tolerate it…"
Elie Wiesel wrote this in his memoir "Night," which detailed Wiesel's experience as a teenage survivor of the concentration camps at Auschwitz and Buchenwald during World War II.
This was, however, what happened during the late 1930s and early 1940s. By the time international intervention became an absolute necessity for world peace, it was already too late for millions of people.
U.S. Army Garrison Ansbach held a ceremony in remembrance of the Holocaust April 19 at the Katterbach Theater at Bismarck Kaserne. The theme of this year's Days of Remembrance ceremony was "Never Again: Heeding the Warning Signs." The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum set forth this theme to promote awareness of the social and political climate during the years before World War II that engendered the Holocaust.
"If we don't educate our young children about the events that happened during this time, it's easy to forget what could happen," said Sgt. 1st Class Robert Forsythe, equal opportunity adviser for Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, USAG Ansbach. Forsythe helped organize the event.
During his speech to the assembly, Col. Kelly J. Lawler, commander of USAG Ansbach, reinforced this message.
"Few understood the historic significance at the time, and fewer still saw the subtly orchestrated events as precursors to what would become one of humanity's darkest hours," said Lawler. "In order for us to prevent such a tragedy again, we must look back to remember the events that took place so that we may learn."
Lawler addressed German expansion during that period, such as the Anschluss, when German troops moved into Austria and took control of the country. He also spoke about the implementation of anti-Semitic legislation that increased hostility toward the Jewish population, which culminated in Kristallnacht, a pogrom that effectively shifted state-sponsored anti-Semitic rhetoric and discrimination to state-sponsored anti-Semitic violence.
The assembly watched a video from the Holocaust Memorial Museum called "Why We Remember the Holocaust." The film detailed the circumstances leading up to the worst genocide in the history of the world. It also pointed out how the lessons of the Holocaust have continued to be terrifyingly relevant as proven by the Rwandan genocide in 1994, Bosnian genocide in 1995 and, most recently, the Darfur genocide.
"What can we learn from the few who chose to act despite widespread indifference?" asked Lawler of the audience. "We are challenged to think about what might motivate us to respond to warning signs of genocide today. As we reflect on these questions, we remember all whose lives were lost or were forever altered by the Holocaust. History teaches us that genocide can be prevented if enough people care to act. Our choices in response to hatred truly do matter. Together we can fulfill the promise that such atrocities will never again occur."
The special guest of the ceremony was retired Sgt. 1st Class Paul Parent.
"We were fortunate enough to have a World War II veteran living here in our community of Ansbach, and he was kind enough to attend our observance and be our guest of honor," said Forsythe. "It was very special for us to bring him here and bring the community together to remember the things he did for our country."
Parent grew up in an orphanage in Ottawa, Canada. Parent learned French, Italian, German and Spanish while in Ottawa. Parent joined the Canadian Army in 1939. Parent took part in several famous aspects of World War II, including the Dieppe Raid, the Italian Campaign and the D-Day Invasion.
"His platoon was credited with setting up the first machine gun [at Normandy during D-Day]," said Master Sgt. Christopher Buchanan, who spoke on behalf of Parent. "He remembered his lieutenant on the boat telling everyone on board, 'You better get off this boat, or I'll shoot you myself.'"
Parent left the Canadian Army after the War and enlisted in the U.S. Army, where he served as a sports director and linguist. He worked in Japan, Korea and Germany.
Lawler presented Parent with a certificate of appreciation and the Creed of the Noncommissioned Officer in a plaque. In honor of his service as a noncommissioned officer in the United States Army, all noncommissioned officers at the assembly stood together and recited the creed.
"It was great," said Parent. "I really appreciate this."
During the ceremony, several Soldiers read passages written by some of the Jewish people dispossessed during the years leading up to the Holocaust and other relevant contemporary documents. After each passage was read, the Soldier lit a candle placed around six lilies in the form of a Star of David.
"Remember," said Forsythe. "Remember what happened so history doesn't repeat itself. Go out and get educated. Germany has a lot of opportunities to go out and get educated: The Dachau Memorial, the Dokuzentrum in Nürnberg -- they have a great museum there. They need to take advantage of it and learn so that events like the Holocaust never happen again."
To learn more about Days of Remembrance, visit www.ushmm.org.