January 27th marked the International Holocaust Remembrance Day, and this year coincided with the unveiling of several Holocaust Remembrance Museums in Central and Eastern Europe. The remembrance day, observed globally by political and religious leaders, survivors and others, was commemorated with prayers and vigils internationally, including at Auschwitz-Birkenau, a former concentration camp in southern Poland.
2013 is the 68th anniversary of the liberation of camps in 1945, however, the deep ramifications and consequences of this dark and painful era of European history are still fresh for many, and carry with them scars which remain unhealed, and unresolved.
The Holocaust continues to incite controversy, as collective memory and interpretations of events can vary throughout Europe. In some cases it is difficult to establish a consensus about this era of European history. Such disparities in understanding have been highlighted in the past year, showing the extent to which education on the Holocaust differs within each nation. Perhaps one of the most blatant examples of this was revealed last March in Russia, after two sisters from on a Russian game show were asked “What was the Holocaust?” and after some discussion admitted that the term “says nothing” to them, and then added, “We think that the Holocaust is wallpaper paste.”
The incident led to an international discussion, and raised questions about how to reach more of a common vision about how the Holocaust is taught in schools. Soviet-era history textbooks did not refer to the ‘Holocaust’ as such, although Nazi persecution of Jews and Slavic people was addressed in school. Following the game show occurrence the Russian Education Ministry announced that Holocaust education would be added as a mandatory part of the curriculum and that textbooks and materials on the subject were under development.
In various places in Europe the effects of the Holocaust are still keenly felt, as in some cases restitutions to victims are still yet to be paid, and bilateral conflicts still ignite over this issue and the failure to achieve an agreeable resolution. Such is the case between Macedonia and Bulgaria, who are at odds in their perspectives on the events of the Holocaust.
In addition to International Holocaust Remembrance Day, many countries have separate commemoration days, on days of significance to individual countries, such as the anniversaries of the beginning or ending of deportations to death camps.
The exile from Bassarabia, a documentary about Roma holocaust
January 28th has been designated as Annual Remembrance Day for Ukraine, the first of which was last year. The day marks the commemoration of approximately 1.5 million Jews who were killed in the country alone, a number which does not even include Ukrainian Jews killed in concentration camps. Ukraine had long been home to a vibrant Jewish culture and, historically, a large Jewish population–the rise of Nazism hit it hard, and left untold loss and devastation in its wake.