The Equal Opportunity team at William Beaumont Army Medical Center hosted Fort Bliss' annual Days of Remembrance observance at the Centennial Banquet and Conference Center, April 17.
The US Congress established Days of Remembrance as the nation's annual commemoration of the Holocaust. This year's Days of Remembrance will be officially commemorated on Thursday, May 2, 2019. More observances and remembrance activities will occur nationwide April 28 through May 5.
"The brutality of the Holocaust was a crime against men, women, and children. It was a crime against humanity. It was a crime against God," reads a presidential message from President Donald J. Trump, published on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Jan. 27. "To remember these men and women-those who perished and those who survived-is to strive to prevent such suffering from happening again. Any denial or indifference to the horror of this chapter in the history of humankind diminishes all men and women everywhere and invites repetition of this great evil."
During the observance, an ensemble of children from the El Paso Jewish Academy recited Ani Ma'amin, an ancient Hebrew affirmation of faith which is interpreted as "I believe". Following the rendition, WBAMC leaders lit candles in remembrance of those who did and did not survive the world's deadliest genocide.
The observance also welcomed guest speaker Rabbi Ben Zeidman, of Temple Mount Sinai in El Paso, who spoke about his grandfather, a Navy veteran, and stories he heard growing up.
"(My grandfather) took great pride in his service. When I was old enough, I would hang out with him and the rest of the group of Jewish War Veterans," said Zeidman. "One of the greatest lessons I learned from them was how our country was willing to fight when confronted by those who are motivated by hatred, destruction, fascism, and corruption, it's a matter of our country's values."
According to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, in the aftermath of World War I, Germans struggled to understand their country's uncertain future. Citizens faced poor economic conditions, skyrocketing unemployment, political instability and profound social change. Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party used these factors to offer solutions, exploit people's fears, frustrations and hopes to win broad support.
The 1920s and 30s saw the rise of support for the Nazi Party, eventually leading to Hitler's appointment as chancellor, and later declaring himself Führer and Reich Chancellor, leader of the nation and head of the government, leaving no authority above or beside him. Germany's armed forces, civil servants, including teachers and police, members of parliament and the judiciary, swore an oath of loyalty to Hitler, not to any constitution.
Hitler further drew on the population's fears by insisting "superior" races must battle "inferior" races or be corrupted by them, leading to the mass genocide of millions of Europeans.
"Hitler created a common enemy, and that rallies people together to do things, they thought they could never do," said Col. Erik Rude, commander, WBAMC. "It's never going to happen again because in America, we don't swear to a dictator or a monarch, we swear to a constitution. We swear an oath to an ideal, a constitution that guarantees freedom for all."
Originally, Nazis established ghettos to concentrate Jews and segregate them. Later, Germans and their collaborators deported roughly 2.7 million Jews and others to killing centers in German-occupied Poland.
"What I've noticed, 75 years after it ended, (discussions have) become very soft when we talk about (the holocaust), and it doesn't need to be soft. If it gets soft, we forget how horrendous it really was," said Rude. "It's one of the most awful things that has happened since the beginning of mankind, so when we explain this to our children, It has to be (realistic), we have to explain how bad this really was."
"I became a rabbi because I felt called to serve the Jewish people after the flames of the holocaust destroyed two thirds of the Jewish people in Europe, more than a third of Jewish people worldwide," said Zeidman. "I also became a rabbi because I'm an American and a Jew, and my faith teaches me the pursuit of a perfect world is the obligation of my Judaism and my citizenship.
"We are here to remember that all bear responsibility to ensure nothing like what happened happens again. And if it happens, to recognize it is a disastrous loss of life and an attack on all we as Americans hold dear," said Zeidman. "Evil knows no borders, and the destruction of life must be fought. It goes beyond religious boundaries."