A new study published in the New York Times revealed some alarming facts about Holocaust education:
Read the full article by Maggie Astor here:
The Maimonides Institute for Medicine, Ethics and the Holocaust is proud to announce a partnership with CANDLES Holocaust Museum and Education Center, effective February 1, 2018. CANDLES is a nonprofit organization founded by Holocaust survivor, Mengele twin, and forgiveness advocate Eva Mozes Kor whose mission is to shine a light on the story of the Holocaust and Eva Kor and to illuminate the world with hope, healing, respect, and responsibility.
Ms. Kor's experience as a survivor of Mengele's twin experiments offers a firsthand account of the ways in which the medical community participated in the dehumanization and torture of millions of innocent people during the Holocaust. We hope to share Ms. Kor's story to help people understand the importance of studying the Holocaust as the historical framework for current issues in modern bioethics, health care policy and medical practice.
MIMEH and CANDLES will be joined in this important endeavor by Misericordia University's Center for Human Dignity in Bioethics, Medicine, and Health.
On January 29, 2018, the Maimonides Institute for Medicine, Ethics and the Holocaust, The Center for Human Dignity in Bioethics, Medicine, and Health at Misericordia University, CANDLES Holocaust Museum and Education Center (founded by Holocaust survivor Eva Mozes Kor), and the Department of Bioethics and the Holocaust of the UNESCO Chair of Bioethics (Haifa) launched an international movement to preserve human dignity in health care. This full day event held at Misericordia University included lectures by internationally renowned scholars Dr. Susan Miller and Dr. Tessa Chelouche, as well as an interfaith candle-lighting ceremony commemorating the victims of the Holocaust and other instances of abuse perpetrated by the medical community. The featured event was the launch of the Pledge to Preserve Human Dignity in Health Care, a document which reaffirms our societal commitment to keeping the ethical principles of equality, justice, and dignity at the forefront of health care. Hundreds of people from over 20 states and 8 countries have signed the document.
View the Pledge to Preserve Human Dignity in Health Care
The Center for Human Dignity in Bioethics, Medicine and Health at Misericordia University invites all interested people to the inaugural "Commitment to Preserve Human Dignity in Health Care" event on Monday, Jan. 29 from 5-6:30 p.m. in Lemmond Theater in Walsh Hall.
The highlight of the program is a first-of-its-kind interactive ceremony to Pledge to Preserve Human Dignity in Health Care. Everyone in attendance will be invited to promise to "uphold the values of dignity, equality and justice within health care." Those taking the pledge will receive a pin they can wear to show their respect for the dignity of all patients.
Program sponsors include the Maimonides Institute for Medicine, Ethics and the Holocaust in New Jersey; the Department of Bioethics and the Holocaust of the UNESCO Chair of Bioethics located in Israel; the CANDLES Holocaust Museum and Education Center founded by Holocaust survivor Eva Mozes Kor and located in Indiana; the Ethics Institute of Northeastern Pennsylvania at Misericordia University; and the Medical Health and Humanities program at Misericordia University.
The program includes an ecumenical candle lighting ceremony with representatives of numerous religious traditions to honor victims of medical science, and presentations about medical science and bioethics by two internationally known speakers. The events are timed to commemorate International Holocaust Remembrance Day on Jan. 27. Additional information about the program's schedule is available at https://www.misericordia.edu/page.cfm?p=2336.
"Our program will serve as the start of a movement that aims to reach everyone throughout the world, both those within the health care profession and others," said Stacy Gallin, D.M.H., director of the Center for Human Dignity in Bioethics, Medicine and Health at Misericordia University. "We are asking them to reflect upon what took place during the Holocaust, what has continued to take place, and vow to use those lessons to reaffirm a societal commitment to preserving human dignity in health care around the world.
"To protect the future, we must learn from the past. It is our hope that universities around the world will join us in having students sign the newly developed 'Pledge to Preserve Human Dignity,' much like doctors and nurses do at their white coat and pinning ceremonies," added Gallin, who is known internationally for her work as the director of the Maimonides Institute.
David Rehm, Ph.D., vice president of Academic Affairs at Misericordia, echoes Gallin's comments. "The scholarly literature on medical science has, since at least the 1980s, called for an annual commemoration to reflect upon the responsibilities and challenges of the medical profession. Misericordia is taking the bold step of putting into action this recommendation. We are proud to be hosting this event," he stated.
"These events are the first in a series of programs that will be held in conjunction with the UNESCO Chair of Bioethics and CANDLES to grow the 'Movement to Preserve Human Dignity in Health Care' through various other like-minded national and international organizations," added Gallin. "Being able to hear from two of the most recognized speakers in the world on bioethics will make for a very special launch to the movement."
Tessa Chelouche, M.D., the director of primary care medical practices at Tel Aviv University, an internationally recognized speaker on the subject of medicine and the Holocaust, will serve as keynote speaker. She will present the talk, "Reflecting on the Past to Protect the Future: Medical Ethics and Human Dignity after the Holocaust."
A native of South Africa, Dr. Chelouche immigrated to Israel in 1977, where she practices as a family physician. She graduated from the Sackler School of Medicine at Tel Aviv University Medical School in 1984. Dr. Chelouche teaches family medicine residents for the Tel Aviv University Family Medicine Program. For the past 17 years, she has been teaching and lecturing on the subject of medicine and the Holocaust. Dr. Chelouche has published numerous articles in international medical and law peer-reviewed journals, and has presented at international conferences and medical schools.
In 2013, Dr. Chelouche co-edited the "Casebook on Bioethics and the Holocaust," which was published under the auspices of UNESCO Chair in Bioethics in Israel. She is affiliated with The International Center for Medicine, Law and Ethics at Haifa University. Dr. Chelouche has been the co-director of the Maimonides Institute for Medicine, Ethics and the Holocaust since its inception in 2015. In 2017, she and Dr. Gallin co-founded the Department for Medicine and the Holocaust as part of the UNESCO Chair in Bioethics, Haifa.
In addition, Susan M. Miller, M.D., M.P.H., F.A.C.P., F.A.A.F.P., will attend the pledge event and will present the address, "Medical Experimentation during and after WWII," at a Bring-Your-Own-Lunch lecture at noon in Huntzinger and Alden Trust rooms 218-219 of Sandy and Marlene Insalaco Hall. Both events are free and open to the public. Dr. Miller is the John S. Dunn, Senior Research Chair in General Internal Medicine at the Houston Methodist Research Institute.
Dr. Miller is an associate professor at Weill Medical College, Cornell University. She is a professor in the Department of Family Medicine and a professor of clinical medicine at the Institute of Academic Medicine, Houston Methodist Research Institute. She also serves as the deputy chief in the Department of Family Medicine at The Methodist Hospital. Dr. Miller is currently the senior chair of the Institutional Review Board of the Methodist Hospital Research Institute and is the director of the Chao Program for International Research Ethics.
Dr. Miller has provided consultation work to health care institutions in Central and Eastern Europe, Russia, Cameroon, the Philippines, South Korea, and Monterrey. She is a board member for the Center for Medicine After the Holocaust in Houston and the Maimonides Institute for Medicine, Ethics and the Holocaust. She is a co-founder of the Center for Medicine after the Holocaust-Ukraine, where she is also a board member of the Scientific Council of the Informational Center of Bioethics – Ukraine.
The Center for Human Dignity in Bioethics, Medicine and Health at Misericordia University was established in September. The center fosters the study of medical ethics and the boundaries of medical research practices, and builds on the teachings offered in the university's Medical and Health Humanities Program.
For more information about the center or the pledge program, please contact Stacy Gallin at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.misericordia.edu/humandignity.
The Maimonides Institute for Medicine, Ethics and the Holocaust brought together internationally acclaimed scholars and practitioners for a presentation and panel discussion regarding the relevance of bioethics and the Holocaust for modern medical practice, health law, public policy, and human rights efforts. The panel reflected upon what we have learned in the 70 years since the Doctors' Trial and the publication of the Nuremberg Code and identify areas that still need to be addressed in order to fulfill our obligation to those who lost their lives at the hands of Nazi medicine.
In October 2015, during the 11th World UNESCO Bioethics, Medical Ethics and Medical Law Conference in Naples, Italy, Professor Amnon Carmi, Head of UNESCO Chair in Bioethics (Haifa) proposed celebrating an annual event to foster the principles of bioethics, as set forth by UNESCO. UNESCO adopted the ‘Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights’ on the 19th of October 2005, and so beginning in 2016 it was unanimously agreed upon to celebrate an annual World Bioethics Day on the 19th of October.
The 2005 UNESCO declaration was not issued in a vacuum. There is a vast history behind the formulation of this vital document.
Bioethics is largely regarded to have its beginnings in the 1960s in the United States. But on closer reflection of the literature a different picture comes to light. In a recent publication we have learned that the very term "bioethics" actually originated in 1927 with a German Protestant theologian named Fritz Jahr who defined the term in his paper "Bio-Ethics: A Review of the Ethical Relationships of Humans to Animals and Plants" and proposed a "Bioethical Imperative," outlining the concept of bioethics as an academic discipline, principle, and virtue. Hence as early as 1927, we had a progressive conception of the ethical aspects of biology and medicine and the understanding of the importance of including this discourse in education. It is thought provoking to note that this notion was formulated in Germany during the same morally turbulent period when the racist racial hygiene theories were being proposed. Jahr's proposal, however, did not achieve its deserved recognition.
2017 marks the 70th anniversary of another important event in the history of bioethics. In August 1947, for the first time in history physicians were tried for for their participation in murderous and tortuous medical programs and experiments conducted in Nazi occupied Europe. In the final judgment the court articulated what is known as the "Nuremberg Code" which declared the rights of research subjects, and condemned the experiments and most of the defendants. Other codes for human experimentation were already in existence, including an extremely detailed German one formulated in 1931, but the Nuremberg Code was the first international code. The trial and the Nuremberg Code did not receive sustained attention until the mid-1960s. What the medical profession had done in Nazi Germany seemed altogether irrelevant to physicians in the rest of the world. The Code was described by some as, “A good code for barbarians but an unnecessary code for ordinary physician-scientists.” But it has been argued that the field of bioethics originated in Nuremberg, and not in the 1960s, as is generally perceived.
There may be varied opinions on where bioethics originated, but what is certain is that medicine during the Nazi period was the main impetus for the modern bioethical codes and regulations. There is a vital connection between bioethics and the Holocaust. The Holocaust differs from other instances of genocide in that it involved the active participation of medicine and science. While there have been many other genocides in the world, the Holocaust was a medically and scientifically based genocide. The discourse on Nazi medicine does not only concern human experimentation ethics but encompasses almost every bioethical topic relevant to modern medicine. In addition there are many misconceptions pertaining to the Nazi physicians' moral reasoning for their conduct. Some of these are the myths of incompetence, madness or coercion. It may be disconcerting, but the fact remains that they did indeed have moral underpinnings for their murderous medical crimes and this comprehension augments our sense of discomfort. The approach of learning and discussing these aspects of medicine's history has evolved due to the extensive medical historical research that has been published and today it is quite acceptable, and even imperative, that we medical professionals examine our past and in doing so reflect on our present perceptions. The difficulty of addressing these issues does not mean that we should avoid them. The difficulty in addressing these issues is exactly what bioethics is all about. Bioethics is the vehicle that is available for health professionals to use when difficult challenges arise. And difficult challenges certainly arise when medicine's complicity in the Holocaust is confronted.
In a UNESCO document called "Why Teach about the Holocaust" published in 2012 Irina Bokova, the Director General wrote: “The history of the genocide perpetrated during the Second World War does not belong to the past only. It is a ‘living history’ that concerns us all, regardless of our background, culture, or religion. Other genocides have occurred after the Holocaust, on several continents. How can we draw better lessons from the past?”
How can we draw better lessons from the past?
In 2013 the Casebook on Bioethics and the Holocaust' was published as one of the teaching manuals of the UNESCO Chair in Bioethics, Haifa. This casebook is one of the series of manuals that the Chair has produced which present ethical manuals to be used for ethics education of the medical professionals worldwide. The UNESCO Chair in Bioethics Haifa, Professor Amnon Carmi, wrote in his foreword to the Casebook: "The formation of ethical codes and books is not enough until their implementation. Implementation means education. Bioethics and the Holocaust offers the understanding of the Holocaust phenomenon."
It is understood by the UNESCO Chair in Bioethics, Haifa that education on bioethics and the Holocaust should be an integral part of medical ethics education worldwide. As a continuation of the perception of the importance of this issue, the UNESCO Department of Bioethics and the Holocaust was developed in 2017 as part of the UNESCO Chair in Bioethics, Haifa. The mission of this Department is to form an international group of interested professionals who will work together to provide various tools for educating undergraduates, graduates and professionals in the field of healthcare regarding the continuing relevance of bioethics and the Holocaust for current issues in society pertaining to medical practice, public policy and human rights.
The moral failures of physicians and the medical establishment in Germany and Austria during the Third Reich challenge medicine and medical education in a way few other events do. Almost every aspect of medical ethics has been influenced by the history of health professionals’ involvement in the Holocaust. Inquiry into the value judgments and moral actions of the Nazi doctors can inform current debate and practices.
In the spirit of World Bioethics Day 2017, we ask to include this important topic of Bioethics and the Holocaust in the general bioethical discourse and education. Some of these topics include: genetics and reproductive technologies, euthanasia, physician-assisted suicide, research ethics, abortion, medical education and professionalism, military medical ethics, utilitarianism, pharmaceutical ethics, medical ethical decisions in complex situations and many other issues that are pertinent not only to medical ethics but to human rights in general. Please join us in our quest to learn better lessons from the past and ensure that history never repeats itself.
Dr. Tessa Chelouche M.D
Dr. Stacy Gallin D.M.H
Stacy Gallin, D.M.H., known for her work in bioethics, named director
DALLAS TWP., Pa. – To promote a deeper understanding of medical practices and their ethical ramifications, Misericordia University has announced the formation of The Center for Human Dignity in Bioethics, Medicine and Health at Misericordia University. The center will foster the study of medical ethics and the boundaries of medical research practices, and will build on the teachings offered in the university’s Medical and Health Humanities Program.
Stacy Gallin, D.M.H., internationally known for her work as director of the Maimonides Institute for Medicine, Ethics, and the Holocaust (MIMEH), has been named director of the center. A 2012 graduate of Drew University with a doctorate in medical humanities, Dr. Gallin began teaching the subject at the undergraduate and graduate levels and subsequently organized the Conference on Medicine, Bioethics and the Holocaust in Madison, New Jersey. The 2015 conference brought together internationally renowned health care professionals, scholars, bioethicists and leaders in the field to initiate a dialogue at all educational and professional levels regarding the importance of creating enduring programs on medicine after the Holocaust. The conference’s success provided the foundation for the development of MIMEH later that year.
“Misericordia’s Center for Human Dignity will provide and support education on the ethics of medical practices in the past, as well as in the present and in the future,” stated David B. Rehm, Ph.D., vice president of Academic Affairs at Misericordia University. “It is a perfect vehicle for Misericordia in that it marries the liberal arts and health sciences – who we are – and will provide educational opportunities for our students, the public, our faculty and others in the study of bioethics and related fields. We want to be able to communicate to the world important issues at the intersection of medicine and ethics.”
The Center for Human Dignity offers a natural synergy to the bachelor’s degree program in Medical and Health Humanities that enrolled its first students in the fall, according to Amanda Caleb, Ph.D., director of the Medical and Health Humanities Program.
“With the addition of the center, we will be able to expand our exploration of ethical issues regarding medical experimentation and health care access,” Dr. Caleb added. “The center will go beyond the classroom and engage the community through its programming and outreach, which will allow for a meaningful and essential conversation about ethics in medicine. Misericordia University will take the lead in this topic by inviting scholars to give lectures, developing online resources including webinars and databases, and hosting conferences and symposia at the campus.”
More than 40 percent of Misericordia’s students are enrolled in health and medical sciences academic programs, including addictions counseling, applied behavioral sciences, diagnostic medical sonography, geriatric care management, health care informatics, health sciences, medical imaging, medical science, nursing, occupational therapy, patient navigation, physical therapy, and speech-language pathology.
“The creation of the center shows that Misericordia shares a dedication to placing human dignity at the center of bioethics, medicine and health,” said Dr. Gallin. “Issues of equity, access to care and the treatment of vulnerable populations continue to plague our society. Rapid advancements in medical technology are eclipsing the traditional doctor-patient relationships at the heart of modern medicine, while economic and political concerns are overtaking the humanitarian and ethical foundations of health care. This center will provide a unique opportunity to initiate a dialogue between the academic community and the public regarding these topics that are of paramount importance for us all.”
In addition, The Center for Human Dignity will provide expanded opportunities for students of all ages to reflect upon past medical and research practices with a vision of promoting an ethical and beneficial future.
“We plan to develop a new generation of scholars, bioethicists, and future community leaders who are engaged in research and program development that goes beyond the classroom,” Dr. Gallin said. “We will offer programs that aim to transcend generational, religious and professional boundaries, and unite the community in service of a shared ideal: the importance of balancing necessary medical and scientific progress with the need to protect the sanctity of all human life. I look forward to creating an enduring center that will serve as a beacon for other like-minded universities and organizations.”
A Center for Human Dignity in Bioethics, Medicine and Health Advisory Council has been established that includes representatives of the Misericordia faculty and student body, as well as the local community. The center is developing a series of lectures and workshops featuring internationally renowned scholars in the fields of bioethics, health care, Holocaust education, and human rights. It will also collaborate with like-minded national and international institutions. In addition, Dr. Gallin is planning a Grand Rounds program on bioethics to provide an opportunity for local health care professionals from across the medical disciplines to discuss the issues of bioethics, health and medical research.
The center will expand on and continue the efforts of the late Misericordia University Professor Okla Elliott, Ph.D., to compile an electronic database of educational resources for the teaching of the Holocaust, bioethics and topics related to medical experimentation. In addition, the center plans to explore the development of academic programs geared to health care professionals and students at Misericordia University.
Dr. Gallin has served as founding director of MIMEH, which has focused on the medical and bioethical implications of the Holocaust since its inception in 2015. In June 2017, she was appointed co-chair of the newly developed Department of Bioethics and the Holocaust of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Chair of Bioethics (Haifa). Dr. Gallin is a member of the board of directors at the Center for Medicine after the Holocaust in Houston, Texas. She also works closely with various national and international organizations, including the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, UNESCO, the Ukrainian Center for Bioethics, and the Aspen Program for Ethical Healthcare Leadership to raise awareness regarding the relevance of medicine, ethics and the Holocaust for modern society.
For more information about The Center for Human Dignity in Bioethics, Medicine and Health, please contact Stacy Gallin at email@example.com or visit www.misericordia.edu/humandignity.
Eva Mozes Kor is a survivor of the Holocaust, a forgiveness advocate, and a revered public speaker. Eva has emerged through a life filled with trauma as a brilliant example of the power of the human spirit to overcome. She is a community leader, a champion of human rights, and a tireless educator of young people.
In 1944, Eva and her family were forced into a cattle car packed with other Jewish prisoners and transported to the Auschwitz concentration camp. Eva and her twin sister, Miriam, were 10 years old. At Auschwitz, the girls were ripped apart from their mother, father and two older sisters, never to see any of them ever again. Eva and Miriam became part of a group of children used as human guinea pigs in genetic experiments under the direction of the now-infamous Dr. Josef Mengele. Approximately 1,500 sets of twins were abused, and most died as a result of these experiments. Eva herself became gravely ill, but through sheer determination, she stayed alive and helped Miriam survive. Approximately 200 children were found alive by the Soviet Army at the liberation of the camp on January 27, 1945. The majority of the children were Mengele twins. Eva and Miriam Mozes were among them.
On September 12, 2017, Eva Kor spoke to a packed auditorium of students, faculty, and members of the general public at Misericordia University. Her tale of survival, freedom and forgiveness touched everyone in attendance. With her support, Misericordia University announced the opening of a new Center for Human Dignity in Bioethics, Medicine, and Health and appointed Dr. Stacy Gallin, Founding Director of MIMEH, as the head of the program.
For the past six days I have struggled with how best to respond to Charlottesville and its aftermath, both individually and as the Founding Director of the Maimonides Institute for Medicine, Ethics and the Holocaust.
How does an organization dedicated to preserving the legacy of the millions of people who were killed during the Holocaust react to a group of 250 neo-Nazis marching in an organized manner, carrying flags adorned with swastikas and torches lit with the fuel of hatred?
How do those of us who have dedicated our lives to ensuring that "Never Again" is more than just a rallying cry respond to 250 people chanting in unison, "Jews will not replace us?"
How do I, as the founding director of the Maimonides Institute for Medicine, Ethics and the Holocaust, an organization founded on the idea that the best way to protect the future is by reflecting upon the past, reconcile the evil that took place during the Holocaust with the events that transpired last weekend in Charlottesville?
I wish there were easy answers to these questions. I wish that there was a way to understand or explain why hatred of this magnitude has persevered throughout history. I wish I could simply issue a strongly worded statement condemning anti-Semitism, racism, hatred and violence of any type and have that be enough to make a difference.
However, what I have learned from studying history, from listening to stories of survivors, from witnessing recent examples of intolerance and hatred is that there are no easy answers. Our society, our world, seems to be broken at its very core, and there is only one thing we can do to repair it.
In the 1930s and 1940s, we remained silent while millions of innocent victims lost their lives at the hands of the Nazis. In 2017, we must not make the same mistake. Elie Wiesel warned that “We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” We cannot afford to be silent anymore.
As MIMEH's founding director, I pledge to use my voice to continue working tirelessly to educate people about the events that took place during the Holocaust and their ramifications for modern society. I pledge to continue to fight injustice wherever and whenever it appears because all people- regardless of their race, religion, sexual orientation, or any other qualifier society chooses to impose- deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. I pledge to continue to utilize MIMEH as a place for people to learn about history in order to make sure we don't repeat the mistakes of our past. I pledge to protect the stories of those who have been the victims of injustice and intolerance, to pass their stories down from generation to generation, and to do my very best to create a better future where people are treated with equality and respect because that is the very foundation of what it means to be human.
Our voices are stronger together than they are apart. WE are stronger together than we are apart. So I invite you to join me and the Maimonides Institute for Medicine, Ethics, and the Holocaust as we pledge to speak up, speak out, and replace the language of hate threatening to poison our world with one of understanding, acceptance and love.
-Stacy Gallin, Founding Director of the Maimonides Institute for Medicine, Ethics and the Holocaust
I recently finished reading "A Boy from Bustina: A Son. A Survivor. A Witness," written by Andrew Burian, a Holocaust survivor whose life changed forever at age 13 when his hometown was invaded by Nazis. Mr. Burian’s book is a testimony to his family and the child he was before he became a prisoner at Auschwitz-Birkenau, the man he became while undergoing unspeakable horrors there, his rebirth as a survivor upon liberation, and his enduring status as a witness and a source of hope and inspiration for his children, who have worked tirelessly to ensure that his story continues to be told. There is a quotation from Mr. Burian found on the first page of the prologue. It reads, “This is what happened to me. This is what I saw. There was not one Holocaust. There were six million Holocausts. I am witness.”
As someone who has studied both the Holocaust and medical humanities, this quote struck me in an incredibly powerful way. In the field of medical humanities, we advocate for the importance of seeing each patient as a person, not just a diagnosis. We argue that it is essential to understand what the person’s life was like before the illness, what he or she values about life and hopes to achieve after the illness. Only by understanding the ways in which the illness impacts the individual’s narrative can the healthcare community truly provide care that is in the best interest of that person. Valuing the dignity of the individual and his or her life story helps enhance communication between the provider and the patient, improve the quality of diagnosis, and increase the likelihood of compliance with a mutually agreed upon treatment plan. An ethical healthcare system must have its foundations in the patient as a person, not as a disease or a statistic.
The phrase “Holocaust” is typically used to describe the murder of millions of innocent victims by the Nazis, six million of whom were killed because they were Jewish. Last week, Yom Hashoah programs throughout the world honored the memory of the six million who perished. We sometimes light six memorial candles, each one representing one million lives lost. By constantly grouping the victims together, we risk losing sight of each individual’s experience; the six million Holocausts Mr. Burian referenced in the opening statement of his memoir.
The field of medical humanities advocates for the inclusion of humanism in medicine, for taking the time to learn the story behind each patient, for treating the individual instead of the disease. It is absolutely necessary for the field of medicine, ethics and the Holocaust to do the same. It is our duty to bear witness to the events that took place during the Holocaust and the ways in which these events impacted individuals, families, and societies as well as the medical profession itself. We must do our best- difficult as it may be- to learn the story behind each victim and understand each individual’s experience. Upon entering the concentration camps, prisoners were dehumanized and branded with a number on their arm that served as a new identity. This number transformed people into prisoners by robbing them of their names, their stories, their family histories, and their entire lives up to that point. Those who survived were marked forever, the number shaping not only their past but their future.
While we can’t turn back the clock and take away the pain and suffering these people experienced, we can do something. We can reverse the dehumanization that was at the root of so much suffering by ensuring that we remember not only the singular Holocaust (as it has come to be known), but the six million Holocausts that Mr. Burian wrote about in his memoir. We must remember his story: the idyllic descriptions of his pre-war childhood, his family and his neighbors; the comment he overheard when he arrived as the youngest person at Auschwitz-Birkenau (“What is this terrible vile smell and why are ashes falling from the sky?” “They are burning gassed people. Tonight they will be burning you.”); the realization at age 14 as he fought through emaciation, hypothermia, and exhaustion during the Death March that “the body and mind can endure the most brutal punishment when there is a goal to reach, when there is hope, when there is an end in sight”; the tears of joy that overwhelmed him upon being unexpectedly reunited with his father and brother at a hospital after liberation, and the significance of his father’s decision to change the family’s last name from Brandestein to Burian to ensure their lasting safety. We must bear witness to the stories of Mr. Burian and all those who have been brave enough to revisit the most horrific days of their lives. They deserve to have their stories told, and we have a responsibility to hear them. Each of them has a story to tell that is reflective of their unique experience. We need to understand, preserve and protect each one of their stories. We need to speak about names, not numbers. We need to find a way to humanize those who fought through the most inhumane period in history. Only then will we fulfill our obligation to “Never Forget.”