The United Nations established Jan. 27 as Holocaust Remembrance Day, since Auschwitz was liberated that day in 1945. The Nazis built Auschwitz and thousands of other camps to imprison and kill over 6 million Jews. Humanity pledged “Never Again”… Never again would people be killed for their race or religion. Never again would humanity let this happen.
Instead of a relaxing winter break vacation, 13 Drexel students and I went to bear witness to the horrors of the Holocaust. We traveled with a group of Jewish students from various universities to see the death camps firsthand. It felt like we were in another world, but actually, this happened on Earth — our Earth. These atrocities were committed by people — regular people, just eighty years ago.
We saw the ghettos, where Jews were forced to live and starve as rats. We touched the very cattle cars that shipped Jews off to the various camps. We visited concentration and death camps: chills went down our spines as we stepped through gas chambers, and crematoria. We mourned at a mass grave of Jewish children in a forest. We saw unimaginable things and unspeakable things. We felt such raw emotions and cried countless tears.
Something powerful hit me in one of the gas chambers: This did not happen to “them.” It was not “the Jews.” It happened to me and my people. I am Jewish. These were my great uncles, aunts, cousins — my family. We were dehumanized and gassed, just for being Jewish.
I have one simple question: How?
How did people buy into such propaganda?
How could regular people become murderers?
How could humanity do such a thing?
Worst of all, I find myself asking, how is this happening to my people again?
How can the then presidents of UPenn, Harvard, and M.I.T. openly say that calling for the genocide of Jews is not necessarily a violation of student conduct? How can calling for genocide ever be acceptable?
Never again is no longer a phrase. It is a necessity. Antisemitism is at record-breaking levels on campuses and cities around the world. The very week my group returned from Poland, a student praised Hitler on a Drexel whiteboard: How could they? It is not just words: My friends and I have been harassed and even attacked for showing our Judaism on campus. Why do we have to hide our Kippahs (Jewish head coverings) to feel safe?
Just weeks after Oct. 7, a Penn student said she was “empowered and happy” because of the massacre. She encouraged everyone at a Philly rally to “bring it to the streets.”
How can never again truly mean never again?