Why we remember

  • Published
  • By 1st Lt. Ryan Lopinski and 1st Lt. Leah Tacosa
  • 341st Missile Wing
When most people think of the Holocaust, they think of the event in its entirety.  A vast number of people, mostly Jews, were murdered as a result of what Adolf Hitler pretentiously called the "final solution." It is naïve to think that this statement is all there is to the Holocaust, as some people do. Some even deny that it took place. Broken down into simple terms, two words can be used: perpetrators and victims. The soldiers and doctors who were complicit in the mistreatment and execution of the Jews and minorities were not dissimilar to us today. They were people who bought the propaganda and ideology Hitler was selling. Their victims ranged from the Jews to anyone considered undesirable, be that due to race or physical disability. The total estimate of people killed during the Holocaust is 11 million, a combination of 6 million Jews and 5 million non-Jews. That works out to roughly 8 percent of the population of the United States in 1940. Imagine if one-tenth of the population were to be wiped out.

The five names below represent less than a fraction of 1 percent of the people persecuted during the Holocaust. Some survived while others did not. 

Eva Rapaport
Eva was born October 27, 1929, in Vienna, Austria. From around the age of 10 her life changed: "When the Germans annexed Austria in 1938...my good friends called me bad names because I was Jewish...we fled by train to Paris." Upon the German occupation of Paris in 1940, she and her family spent the rest of the war living and hiding at the home of a village priest. She and her family survived and immigrated to the United States in 1948.

Bertha Adler
Bertha was born on June 20, 1928, in Selo-Solotvina, Czechoslovakia.  She died 16 years later. Aided by friends, she and her family managed to remain hidden until 1944. On May 21, 1944, she died in a gas chamber in the Auschwitz concentration camp.

Karl Stojka
Karl was born on April 20, 193, in Wampserdorf, Austria. Karl and his family were Gypsies, also known as Roma. They were eventually deported in 1943 to the Birkenau concentration camp in Poland. The camp housed around 2,000 Gypsies toward the end of the war. Karl came close to dying in the gas chamber when a group of Gypsies were transported to another labor camp and subsequently killed in the gas chamber. He was returned to Birkenau because they considered him too small to work.

Ossi Stojka
Ossi was born in 1936 in Austria and was also a Gypsy. After being deported to Birkenau, he became seriously ill. At the age of seven he was placed with the rest of the sick inmates, known as the "antechamber of the crematoria." He died of typhus and malnutrition.

Harry Pauly
Harry was born in Germany in1914. He was targeted not for being a Jew or Gypsy, but for being a homosexual. The Nazis closed down gay bars and many homosexuals were murdered. Some like Harry were arrested several times for violating the current laws regarding homosexuality. At one point he was sent to a work camp in Neusustrum, Germany, for eight months. Harry survived and eventually opened a theater.

Why do we take the time to remember the Holocaust? From a societal standpoint, it is often more convenient to sum up a horrific event as in the past, done and the lesson was learned. That line of thinking can lead us to blindness. Genocide continues into the 21st century, targeting different people groups ranging on the basis of racial discrimination to religion. We remember the Holocaust because of the old adage, "history repeats itself." We remember because it's part of our history--human history. Without respect for each other's differences, our civilization is merely a façade, just like Nazi Germany. We paint a picture of hope and progress, when the ugliness that is the disrespect of our differences continues to run rampant in the world around us. That is why we remember.

All biographical information was obtained from the United States Holocaust Museum.