On November 1, 2005, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution to designate the 27th of January as International Holocaust Remembrance Day to mark the day that the Auschwitz camp was liberated in 1945 and to commemorate the victims of the Holocaust. The resolution condemns all forms of “religious intolerance, incitement, harassment or violence against persons or communities based on ethnic origin or religious belief” throughout the world.

The theme of the United Nations Holocaust memorial this year is “Home and Belonging“.  Home and belonging is something that WIZO feels very strongly about and this day highlights the humanity of the Holocaust victims and survivors who had their homes and sense of belonging ripped from them by the perpetrators of the Holocaust. The theme reminds us of our responsibility to the victims of these barbaric crimes, to counter hate speech, antisemitism, Holocaust distortion, denial and prejudice.

It also reminds us of the women and children who have been flung from   their homes, have nowhere to go and are the victims of denial, distortion, prejudice and all the other issues that arise around women and children who need homes of safety to stay in.  We identify with this as we open our WIZO homes in Israel to women and children, giving them a sense of home and belonging when they need it the most. Their families are incapable of looking after them and this is when WIZO steps up to do what matters most.

Holocaust Remembrance Day is a time to develop and implement educational programs that can help to prevent future genocides. So too do we, in our WIZO homes, give the women and children training and education to better themselves, thereby giving them the skills to move on to the next step in their rehabilitation process.  

It is especially important that young people learn about the dangers of hatred and discrimination and to instill the memory of this tragedy in future generations to prevent genocide or crimes against humanity from occurring again.

On this day, International Holocaust Remembrance Day, we remember and pay tribute to the victims and the survivors and we stand together against oppression and prejudice of all people irrespective of religion or race.  This aligns with WIZO’s ethos of standing together against any violence afflicted on those who cannot defend themselves, the likes of battered women or children who have been removed from their homes and placed in our houses of safety.

Elie Wiesel, Nobel Peace Prize laureate who died in 2016 at age 87, spent much of his life reminding the world of the dangers of indifference and hate and the importance of speaking up against injustice and intolerance. In his memoir he wrote; “We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”

Remembering the Holocaust teaches us that humanity can survive unimaginable horrors. It is imperative that we educate future generations so that the past will never be repeated.  

As WIZO women, we embody co-existence, strive to abolish all forms of discrimination and do what it takes to uphold the rights of those people we help.  We WILL remember!  We WILL educate!  We WILL challenge prejudice!  We WILL stand up to hatred!  We will NOT forget!