By Al Macks, Presidio of Monterey Public AffairsMay 13, 2011
PRESIDIO OF MONTEREY, Calif. - The Presidio of Monterey community observed Days of Remembrance during an afternoon event at the Tin Barn auditorium here May 5.
Days of Remembrance, also known as Yom Hashoah and Holocaust Remembrance Day, is a day set aside for people to remember the horrors of the European Holocaust perpetrated by Nazi Germany from 1933 to 1945.
Sponsored by the Marine Corps Detachment, Presidio of Monterey, the observance brought to the attention of an audience of predominantly Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center students the national Days of Remembrance theme, "Justice and Accountability in the face of Genocide: What have we learned'"
"It was state-sponsored genocide," said guest speaker Avner Even-Zohar, assistant professor of the DLIFLC Hebrew department, in describing the era of Nazi terror in which 11 million victims perished. He said British statesman and historian Sir Winston Churchill viewed it as "the greatest crime ever committed in the history of the world."
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 the 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."
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 (1478-1834), Jews could save themselves by converting to Christianity. To Jews, the Nazis said, you may not live among us. Then they 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."
Even-Zohar said Nazis also introduced "the industrialization of the extermination process" by constructing mass execution chambers and ovens to dispose of victims' bodies.
"They built a chain of concentration camps and extermination camps across Europe," he said. "'Efficiency' was the keyword. That is unique in world history."
Lt. Col. Kenneth Enney, commander of the Marine Corps Detachment, provided the program's opening remarks, which included an account of his travels. Army Chaplain Maj. John M. Morgan offered an invocation and Rabbi David Holtzberg led a closing prayer.
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 observances throughout the United States by state and local governments, military installations, workplaces, schools, churches, synagogues and civic centers.