January 27, 2023
On this day in 1945, Auschwitz was liberated.
On this one day, January 27, 1945, more than 7,000 people were freed from unspeakable horror. Most of them were ill or dying. And they were the lucky ones. On this one day, ordinary people freed ordinary people from atrocities committed by ordinary people.
What makes this one day so significant, beyond the obvious themes of the human spirit and good triumphing over evil, is that when we look at all of the people involved – survivors, persecutors and freedom-fighters, we can see that on every level they were just ordinary human beings, brought to their respective places in history by the groups they were members of either by choice or by designation.
When we look back on this one day in history, we see ordinary people working together either for terrible causes, heroic efforts, or survival. We see ourselves, each of us just one human being, each of us capable of doing amazing things as well as detestable acts. We see ourselves, each just an ordinary individual, working at the business of survival.
Today, on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, please join me in reflecting on how important ordinary people have been in history. Hitler and his Nazi party were all ordinary people whose choices made extraordinarily negative impacts on the world. The Allies, and the soldiers who fought for the Allies, were all ordinary people whose choices on this one day in history made all the difference to survival for many, and towards ending World War II. The survivors of Auschwitz, tortured and bleeding, were ordinary people who had been placed in unjust and unchosen places of murder and death; they became extraordinary by their will to survive.
I hope that I would and will always choose to be a part of the group that fights for innocence and justice against evil, part of the group choosing survival and humanity. On this one day, years removed from Auschwitz but not removed at all from choices we as ordinary people must make, remember those 7,000 who were freed from Auschwitz – weary and sick and maybe dying – and choose to be on the side of history that does not seek to oppress or injure, but rather seeks to honor ordinary people, surviving one day at a time.
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