Days of Remembrance

(U.S. Air Force graphic/Staff Sgt. Alexx Pons)

(U.S. Air Force graphic/Staff Sgt. Alexx Pons)

CANNON AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. -- The National Days of Remembrance is an annual commemoration established by congress. The observance is scheduled to take place May 1-8; this year’s theme is “Learning from the Holocaust: Acts of Courage.”

From 1933 to 1945, Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party led the German government in the systematic persecution and annihilation of Europe's Jewish population. This genocide, known as the Holocaust, is a horrifying example of what happens when a community and culture are robbed of their human rights.

According to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Jews were the primary victims -- six million were murdered; Roma (Gypsies), people with disabilities, and the Polish were also targeted for destruction or decimation for racial, ethnic, or national reasons. Millions more, including homosexuals, Jehovah's Witnesses, Soviet prisoners of war, and political dissidents also suffered grievous oppression and death under Nazi Germany.

During the Holocaust, German soldiers followed orders without question. Bystanders witnessed atrocities and did nothing; too scared to speak up, they stood by while innocent people were killed.

Martin Niemöller, a prominent Protestant pastor who emerged as an outspoken public foe of Adolf Hitler and spent the last seven years of Nazi rule in concentration camps, is remembered for the following statement:

“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—
And there was no one left to speak for me.”

The terrible events of the Holocaust should be remember both for their historical significance, but also as a cautionary tale about respecting fellow human beings. The disrespect and disregard for humanity during the Holocaust is disturbing, but it is important that we remember the Holocaust to honor victims and prevent future genocide.

More than seven decades have passed since then, yet to this day, people treat those who are not like them differently. If you look across the world to places like Bosnia, Iraq or Rwanda, there are still millions of people being persecuted for their differences.

Our values should align with the Air Force core values to show mutual respect. Genuine respect involves viewing another person as an individual of fundamental worth. This means members should not be judged on the basis of his or her possession of an attribute that places him or her in a particular racial, ethnic, economic or gender-based category.

The next time you hear or witness something that looks questionable, heighten your awareness, show an act of courage and take the time to question the behavior. Remember your contributions help to protect the inalienable right of everyone to be treated with dignity and respect.

For more information about the Holocaust and Days of Remembrance, please contact the Equal Opportunity office at 575-784-2407, or visit the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum website at https://www.ushmm.org.