By Molly “M.E.O.W.” Naaktgeboren, Staff Writer

The term Holocaust originally meant “a sacrifice that was totally burned by fire.” The Hebrew word Shoah, which means “catastrophe” or “destruction,” is also used to refer to the Holocaust. The Holocaust was the state-sponsored, systematic persecution and destruction of European Jewish people by the Nazis and their collaborators between 1933 and 1945. While Jews were the primary target of Nazi hatred, the Nazis also persecuted and murdered Roma and Sinti (gypsies), homosexuals, Poles, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and people with disabilities. Six million Jews and millions of others were murdered during the Holocaust.

International Holocaust Remembrance Day is a memorial commemorating the victims of the Holocaust. In 2005, the United Nations (UN) decided that Jan. 26 marks the liberation of the largest concentration camp, Auschiwitz, in 1945. This day is not to be confused with the official holiday observed by Israel, Yom Hashoah U’Mered HaGetaot (Holocaust and Ghetto Revolt Remembrance Day), which also occurs on the 27th of Nisan (first month in the Jewish calendar). A decision that was made in 1951. The name later became known as Yom Hashoah Ve Hagevurah (Devastation and Heroism Day) and even later simplified to Yom Hashoah.

The UN’s resolution asks everyone to first honor the memory of all those who lost their lives in the genocide of six million European Jews, as well as millions of others; an outcome presented through the atrocious actions of the Nazi regime. The UN also encourages people to develop educational programs about the Holocaust and its history in an effort to prevent acts of genocide in the future.

The resolution adopted by the General Assembly on the Holocaust Remembrance (A/RES/60/7, 1 November 2005) rejects the denial of the genocide and condemns all manifestations of religious intolerance, harassment or violence against any person and/or community based on religious or ethnic origin.

The International Holocaust Remembrance Day has been observed with candle lighting, speakers, poems, prayers and singing. Six candles are traditionally lit to represent the six million lives lost. Some memorials also have speakers read the names of all the lives lost. This ceremony can go throughout the night, with people reading the names of the millions of men, women and children who suffered unspeakable acts of repugnance that was an overall conflict against humanity.

Featured Image: Roylindman at English Wikipedia [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons

Article Image: Ted Eytan, via Flickr