Let us remember . . . and remember to act


The crowd fell silent as one white candle was lit, then another and another, until all 11 burned brightly. The display, which was part of the annual Holocaust Remembrance Day Ceremony in the Cedar Valley, was a haunting representation of the 11 million Jewish and non-Jewish victims of Nazi persecution and murder during the Holocaust. 

The May 3 ceremony, which was held at the Sullivan Brothers Iowa Veterans Museum in Waterloo, also recognized the liberators, rescuers, resisters and relief workers who stood up against Nazi aggression. 

The room took on a brighter glow as the final candle, the Candle of Hope, was lit to encourage people everywhere to turn remembrance into action.

“After each genocide we hear the words ‘never again!’ When will never again mean never again?” said Stephen Gaies, director of UNI’s Center for Holocaust and Genocide Education. “As important as it is to celebrate the day of remembrance and remember the victims each year, we must use this as a springboard for action.”

Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremonies in the United States are the result of a bill passed unanimously by Congress in 1980 that established, among other things, an eight-day period called the Days of Remembrance of the Victims of the Holocaust. Civic commemorations and special educational programs are held around the country to help people remember and learn from the Holocaust. This is the fifth year the celebration has been held in the Cedar Falls/Waterloo area.   

Nationally, the 2011 ceremony was organized around the theme “Justice and Accountability in the Face of Genocide: What Have We Learned,” which was chosen by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. This theme is especially appropriate since 2011 marks the 65th anniversary of the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal that brought leading military and civilian Nazi war criminals to justice. 

This year is also the 50th anniversary of the trial of Adolf Eichmann, a high-ranking SS officer who played a central role in the so-called Final Solution – the murder of 6 million Jewish men, women and children. 

“You don't have to be looking to find ways in which the Holocaust is relevant in our everyday lives," said Gaies, “Our history clearly shows that these events don’t disappear. Instead, people have to make them disappear.” 

The Holocaust Remembrance Ceremony was sponsored by UNI’s Center for Holocaust and Genocide Education (CHGE) , the College of Humanities and Fine Arts, and several local religious and cultural organizations. The mission of the CHGE is to increase people’s knowledge about the Holocaust and other genocides, as well as to strengthen people’s commitment to confront genocide and other threats to human rights, such as intolerance, anti-Semitism, racism and ignorance. 

The CHGE will sponsor the following two film screenings related to the Holocaust; both are free and open to the public. The screenings will take place at the Sullivan Brothers Iowa Veterans Museum in Waterloo. 

“Judgment at Nuremberg” – 1 p.m., Saturday, May 14. This 1961 Academy Award-winning film is one of the first to be made about the Holocaust.

“Nuremberg” – 7 p.m., Thursday, June 2. A 2000 television docudrama starring Alec Baldwin.