Lessons - The Coming Year

The year 2014 marked the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, and throughout the past year we have been able to present a number of well-attended, thought-provoking programs about this important part of history. We talked about the odd parallels of the Nuremburg laws and Jim Crow; we discussed marginalization and prejudice and how it has impacted the length and breadth of human history. We used films, speakers and an extraordinary exhibition – Hateful Thongs from the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia – to talk about we each can do to ensure that everyone in our community can feel safe and welcome.

2015 is a new year of remembrance. It is the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Voting Rights Act where we again find a parallel in Holocaust history. In the early years of the 20th century Germans Jews believed themselves to be fully German: fighting as Germans in the First World War, living and working in fully-integrated communities, and taking pride in the great culture of their fatherland. With the rise of the Nazis they were stripped of their citizenship just as African-Americans were denied access to the ballot box and other benefits as fully-entitled members of the community.

This year is also the 70th anniversary of liberation and the end of WWII. We will use this time to discuss the history of 1945 though examining the social, military and economic conditions that finally led to the defeat of the Nazis.

In broader terms, we must recognize that the end of the war was not, in many ways, the end of the Holocaust. Yes, artillery was silenced and prisoners were released; land was divided and war crimes trials established some form of justice. But in a larger sense, the months and years immediately after the war brought continued hardships for Survivors. They were displaced, most often without homes where they could return and without families for reunion. The young among them had been deprived of education and youthful adventures. The elderly were left without property, without hope, and without adequate compensation for their suffering and losses.

At the Holocaust Center we remember the past and use its lessons to create a more compassionate future. At the same time, we recognize that there are those among us for whom the terrible history of the Holocaust is still very much with them every day. We care for them and we honor them; we preserve their stories so that they will never be forgotten.

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