Only in Auschwitz-Birkenau, 1.1 million people lost their lives in gas chambers or due to malnutrition and diseases. WWII was one of the biggest crimes ever committed in the history of humankind. It was a time of terror and oppression. In which innocent people suffered and lost their life because of a racist ideology.
For the German people it is the darkest chapter in the history of their nation. Almost everyone has a connection to WWII in their family background. Some might be civilians, some might be victims, some might even be villains. But regardless of the personal history one might have we all have the same duty to remember. Commemoration and education are the only ways to prevent history from repeating itself. The way to commemorate differs heavily. All over the world, memorials and monuments are places to remember the victims and terror of the Nazi regime.
PRAXIS is a non-governmental organisation supporting the human rights and equality. With our campaign for the 75th anniversary of the commemoration of the victims of the holocaust we wanted to remember those who suffered and honour those who fought for human rights. For this reason, I chose to create an exhibition which shows memorials and monuments all over the world. In the following I am going to present the 3 most remarkable of the exhibits presented on the 31st.
Yad Vashem is the World’s Holocaust Remembrance Center located in Jerusalem. The museum offers many monuments to visit and one of the most important is the Hall of Names. It commemorates every Jew murdered in the Holocaust. No cemetery, no headstones were built for those who lost their lives to the terror of the Nazis. The Hall of Names restores the identity of the victims by presenting images, short biographies and documents. Family members and relatives donated personal belongings to the museum to personalize the memorial. At the moment, it contains 2.7 million images and faces of victims.
Another outstanding monument is the Janusz Korczak memorial. It is also located in Yad Vashem and dedicated to its name carrier, the author Janusz Korczak. In his country of origin, Poland, Korczak became famous as a writer and pedagogue. Before WWII he lead an orphanage which offered a shelter to every child in need. He was a great supporter of democracy and the rights of children. Korczak believed in the majority of minors and gave them a voice. In the orphanage, rules passed by democratic committee consisting of minor members had to be obeyed. He offered himself the same privileges and duties as he offered his children. Not only did he support his children but he also opposed the Nazis heavily. By 1939, every Jew was demanded to wear the Star of David which Janusz Korczak refused to do. He also refused to abandon his children by the time they were sent to the ghetto. He committed his whole life and energy to the improvement of the circumstances of his children. In 1942, Korczak and more than 200 of the orphans he protected were sent to the concentration camp of Treblinka where they later lost their lives. Nowadays, Janusz Korczak is not only remembered by several memorials or monuments. Many schools or other educational institutions are named after him to honour the effort he put in the protection of helpless children.
Due to strong historical connection many monuments that commemorate the World War II are located in Germany. One of the most important can be found in the centre of Berlin. The memorial to all the murdered Jews of Europe is an arrangement of grey stone square made by Peter Eisenman. It is a 19.000m² large field where visitors are able to walk through. The memorial is rather abstract because its purpose is to reconstruct feelings and not facts. By walking through the field observers are able to feel the supposedly ordered system that has lost touch with every kind of humanity.
These 3 monuments are just a few examples of a variety of places and ways to commemorate. Education and awareness are the only ways to prevent similar catastrophes from happening. We have a duty to fight for human rights and prohibit extremism and fascism from gaining power.