FORT BELVOIR, Va. (April 19) -- A holocaust survivor shared his story to the garrison command during Fort Belvoir's Holocaust Days of Remembrance cultural observance April 17 in Woodlawn Chapel.
Frank Cohn, retired Army colonel and keynote speaker, explained how he and his Family escaped Nazi Germany during the 1930s to America where Cohn ended up serving the U.S. during World War II.
Fort Belvoir, the U.S. Army Intelligence and Security Command and the Northern Regional Medical Command Equal Opportunity Offices co-hosted the event.
The Holocaust was the systematic, state-sponsored persecution and murder of approximately 6 million Jews by the Nazi regime and its collaborators in the mid 1900s.
The EOO conducted a candle lighting ceremony to honor lost lives in extermination camps during World War II.
This year's Holocaust theme, "Choosing to Act: Stories of Rescue," recognizes the people who chose to help Jewish people escape genocide during the war.
"There's something that's more powerful than the human capacity for evil and that is the human capacity to act and to do right," said Chaplain (Lt. Col.) James King, deputy garrison chaplain and senior protestant pastor. "It shows us responsibilities that belong to all of us regardless of our faith, regardless of nationality, regardless of our time in history. All of us have the opportunity to act for good."
Belvoir observed the theme with a reflection on the holocaust led by Cohn.
The retiree's Family was a middle-class household in Germany when Hitler siezed power.
Cohn's and the lives of many Jews changed drastically under Hitler's administration which slowly implemented laws that encouraged prejudice towards Jewish people.
Cohn's father lost his business because German Nazi's wouldn't shop at his store and Cohn recalled being chased and intimidated by German Nazi's during his school days.
"I knew I was second class citizen," Cohn said. "It was amazing how the kids immediately knew who were the Jews."
Cohn's father eventually traveled to America in a hope to create a new home for his family. Before his father could return to collect is family, Cohn and his mother fled Germany as the state became intolerable for Jewish people.
The two reunited with Cohn's father in America with no jobs and little money.
The systematic Kristallnacht attacks on Jewish people in Nazi Germany and Austria November 9, 1938, brought bitter sweet comfort to the Cohn Family as the U.S. announced it wouldn't deport anyone back to Germany during the genciode.
"We were saved," Cohn said. "It was an absolute miracle in terms of timing."
Cohn's Family would soon find its footing in the U.S. and Cohn was eventually drafted into the Army. His German background led to him becoming an Army Intelligence Officer during the Battle of Bulge.
Cohn urged everyone to never allow atrocities such as the Holocaust to happen again.
"We can't say it can't get any worse, because it can" Cohn said.
Lieselot Verdonck, Genocide Watch research coordinator, Africa, agrees with Cohn.
"Genocides and other mass murders have killed even more people in the second half of the 21st century," said Verdonck who noted millions of people have been murdered in areas such as Nigeria due to ethnic and religious conflicts.
Genocide Watch is a non-profit Washington D.C. based organization dedicated to predicting, preventing, stopping and punishing genocide and other forms of mass murder.
Verdonck shared Genocide Watch President Gregory Stanton's eight stages of genocide with attendees.
The stages are classificatioin, symbolization, dehuminization, organization, polarizations, preparation, extermination and denial. The primary tools used include using symbols, such as a religious names or skin color, to distinguish and dehumanize a group of people.
"By observing these ceremonies we're teaching ourselves not to repeat the past," said Capt. Eun Kim Fort Belvoir chaplain.
Kim said studying history allows people to recognize historical signs of genocide and protect people from conflict.
The Chaplain advises people to visit the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C., to learn more about the Holocaust.
"Ultimately genocide must be prevented at the local level by educating young people that the differences between us. Our diversity should celebrated and not eliminated. We must teach tolerance in our schools," Verdonck said. "It will become possible to end genocide forever when we all realize that we are one race. The human race."
To learn more about Genocide Watch and how you can help prevent these types of killings, visit