By Ms. Elyssa Vondra (Jackson)April 15, 2019
When thinking of the Holocaust, Judaism may come to mind, but one expert in the field says it isn't the religion that should be at the forefront of the tragedy's history.
To commemorate victims of the Holocaust, Fort Jackson held the 2019 Days of Remembrance and Holocaust Remembrance Day observation luncheon -- complete with a candle-lighting and name-reading ceremony -- at the NCO Club April 5 to reflect on "the actions and the stories of ordinary people, who through their actions, became extraordinary," said Marilynn Bailey, Fort Jackson volunteer coordinator.
When discussing religion in relation to the Holocaust, "we should be careful to define it as the religion of Naziism," said Christine Beresniova, executive director of the South Carolina Council on the Holocaust, the luncheon guest speaker.
Beresniova formerly designed teacher training programs at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. In 2017, she published her first book on the Holocaust.
There is no one way to be Jewish, Beresniova said, and there are different sects within the faith.
Religion was just used to justify the human rights violations, she continued. The real reasons went "Beyond Religious Boundaries," this year's Days of Remembrance theme on-post.
The Days of Remembrance, established by the U.S. Congress, are national dates set aside to commemorate those impacted by the Holocaust.
"History teaches us that genocide can be prevented if enough people care enough to act," Bailey said. "Our choices in response to hatred truly do matter, and together we can help fulfill the promise of 'Never again.'"
Remembering those lost "as human beings, as individuals who have a life story, who had a history," is important to keeping their memories alive, Bailey added.
Among the estimated 18 million killed were prisoners of war, people with disabilities, Jehovah's Witnesses, criminals and homosexuals, but Jews were treated differently than the rest, Beresniova said.
"The Jews were the only group in all of Europe during the war for whom Hitler and the Nazis diverted necessary wartime resources to first bring death to," she added. "Jews were not targeted as a religious group. They were targeted as a race."
While people can adopt a new language, culture or set of beliefs, "the one thing that people cannot change is their genetics," and Adolf Hitler fed on that idea, she said. "Racializing Jews, even though they do not define themselves this way, was essential in the path to 'othering' them."
Through advancing a "shared respect for human rights ... we can combat intolerance," said Lt. Col. Jason Finch, commander of Headquarters, Headquarters Battalion, U.S. Army Training Center, "including all forms of bigotry and discrimination," and prevent history from repeating itself.