The best way to remember the Holocaust is not with a hashtag!

On January 27, the whole world will be invited to remember the atrocities committed by Nazi Germany during the Holocaust by observing International Holocaust Remembrance Day. This is an anniversary that was set-up by the United Nations and is different from the yearly Yom HaShoah (Day of the Catastrophe) that takes place in Israel in the spring. While I find much bias in how the UN views and portrays Israel, I must commend them for recognizing the Holocaust. We live at a time of history nearing the complete extinction of all the remaining survivors of the Holocaust, as most of them are now in their mid-eighties at least. The motto of "NEVER AGAIN" arose soon after the closing of World War Two and has been the on-going creed of all those who want the Holocaust to be remembered. Recently, people have been even more creative in prompting, challenging and encouraging others to remember. This year, the World Jewish Congress wants to reach 500 million people globally, who will post the hashtag #WeRemember or #IRemember on a multitude of platforms on the social networks. Hashtags are a very powerful way to express an idea and make it attach itself and multiply itself on the web like nothing else can. In and of themselves, they are not bad, but they can have a tendency to become counterproductive.

Many people around the globe will post pictures of themselves with a sign showing the hashtag, and they will feel good about themselves. They will get a feeling of righteous indignation against hatred. They will feel like they are part of a broad community of people holding virtual hands to speak up against the Holocaust and antisemitism, and in a small way, they will be, but for most, the remembrance will dissipate soon after. Hashtags are a good starting point or a good addition, but if we truly want to remember–And now more than ever is the time to do so– we should opt for other ways of looking at the Holocaust. As permanent as a hashtag can become on the web, it is very ephemeral in our minds. There are other options that will leave an indelible memory in all of us, and we should explore them if at all possible.

Listen to a Holocaust survivor: Their number is dwindling down very fast, but there are still ways for many of us to get first-person accounts of the horrors of the Holocaust. If you know such a person or have an opportunity to go listen to one, do not hesitate to go and listen. Their stories vary from one to the next, but they all are a testimony to the problem of evil within mankind and the deep hatred for the Jewish people. For many of us, it can be challenging to meet one in person. The closest thing to a physical meeting is a video testimony. The powerful work of the staff at Shadows of Shoah brings many testimonies from survivors on video, and by virtue of that medium, renders their unique stories eternal. Additionally, the Steven Spielberg Shoah Foundation has over 54,000 video testimonies of survivors that are there to stay. Every single one of them is poignant and memorable in its own way.

Visit a Death Camp: In 2010, I had the opportunity to travel to Krakow, Poland and visit the remains of Auschwitz-Birkenau. This meant a lot to me since my maternal Grandfather Maurice Weinzveig was taken there by the Gestapo, from Paris in the Summer of 1942. Walking alongside the empty barracks in the cold of winter, left a mark on my psyche. Had Maurice spent time in any of them or did he die on the train or the gas chambers upon arrival? I will never know. The Death Camps are gruesome and eerie monuments left over from one of the darkest periods of mankind's history. If at all possible, everybody, and most definitely every Christian should walk through one of them once in their lifetime.

Visit a Holocaust Memorial Museum: There are many such edifices that gather artifacts, photos and videos from the Holocaust. They make the events of the Jewish Catastrophe more real and tangible. The biggest and most elaborate of them–Yad Vashem–is located in Jerusalem. It is a difficult visit punctuated by visual and audio markers that will undoubtedly leave an impression on you for many years, well beyond the posting of any hashtag. There are several Holocaust Memorials closer to home in the United States. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C. or the Simon Wiesenthal Center/Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles are just two of the most impactful and fruitful in their respective communities and nationally. The list is much longer and warrants several different visits if possible.

Read an account of the Holocaust: There is a tremendous global collection of Holocaust literature. From survivors' accounts to biographies, historical accounts and even poems. Every human being should read the short but life-altering account of Elie Wiesel's time at Auschwitz-Birkenau with his father when he was only 15. As told in his autobiography Night, his story of resilience and survival against all odds is very dark. Another powerful account coupled with a symposium from famous survivors is found in Simon Wiesenthal's The Sunflower. A detailed and accurate account of the Holocaust can be found in Lucy Dawidowicz The War Against the Jews or in The destruction of the European Jews by Raul Hilberg.

Any of these options or all of them if possible will work a lot further than a clever hashtag. The Holocaust cannot afford to be relegated to a single string of two or three words. We are minimizing the gravity of the event by posting hashtags. The virtual remembrance that is brought by the clever use of a hashtag will quickly become empty without the personal experiences, stories and accounts that can be lived through survivors, camps, museums and literature. Since most of us were not there in the camps and probably not even born at the time, what are we really saying when we say #WeRemember? At the very least, we ought to listen to the few survivors introduced on Shadows of Shoah , and then we can honestly say that we remember what they shared.

It is our duty as human beings to remember the Holocaust, share its history with the future generations and speak-up against those who deny that it ever happened.

The best way to do all this IS NOT just with a hashtag!

Holocaust Memory: What Would Elie Wiesel Do?

Eliezer Wiesel was born in 1928 in Romania. He was fifteen when he and his whole family were deported to Auschwitz. He spent most of his internment in the camps at Auschwitz and Buchenwald, with his father Shlomo. Elie Wiesel survived the horrors of the Holocaust. He was greatly motivated by the desire to take care of his beloved father who unfortunately died in Buchenwald just a few weeks before the liberation of that camp. One of his three sisters and his mother also perished in the camps. Elie had become a Holocaust survivor and an orphan at age 17.

Elie Wiesel passed away on July 2nd , 2016 at the age of 87. In a sense, the passing of this giant is the silencing of one voice who for six decades, as he continued to live through the nightmares of his gruesome experience, chose to perpetuate Holocaust memory in any way he could. He leaves behind him 57 books, too numerous to list or recommend here except for Night, written in 1960, that should be a must read for everyone. Night is Elie Wiesel's Memoir of his time in the Death Camps with his father. Among the myriad of awards and recognitions that he accumulated over the years, Wiesel received the Nobel Peace prize in 1986. But to him, even in his last days, much remained to be accomplished to remember the past and alleviate a similar future.

To Wiesel, apathy or indifference was one the worst evil in the world.   That is exactly why he spent the bulk of his life educating a world in shock that later morphed into a numb world to eventually become the postmodern world in denial that it currently is. He once said "I decided to devote my life to telling the story because I felt that having survived I owe something to the dead. and anyone who does not remember betrays them again."  He had always felt guilty of not being able to do more for his dad during their imprisonment in the camps. He felt that he didn't deserve to live as he also wrote "that I survived the Holocaust and went on to love beautiful girls, to talk, to write, to have toast and tea and live my life - that is what is abnormal."

Beyond a powerful legacy, he leaves us with a tremendous challenge. We must continue his fight.  If we remain silent, his voice will fade away into oblivion or worse, get relegated to a couple of statements about an event that many are already starting to doubt. The world cannot afford to be silent, apathetic or indifferent.

The Holocaust took place more than 75 years ago which means that any survivor still alive today would be at least 75 years old–as unlikely as it might be–if they were born in the camps. The average age of all holocaust survivors today is closer to 80. Logically, the 500,000 worldwide Holocaust survivors, will all be gone within ten years...and then what? I fear that beyond the respectful eulogies and posthumous accolades Wiesel receives, people will quickly move back to their busy lives and allow the revisionists and antisemites to win the next battle.

We must continue to educate people about the Holocaust. There are numerous Holocaust memorials and museum throughout the world, many of them in the United-States. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Wasshington, D.C (whose founding chairman was Elie Wiesel) is one of them. Visit the one nearest you and make sure you accompany yourselves with some people from the next generation. This goes along with Wiesel's statement that "Without memory, there is no culture. Without memory, there would be no civilization, no society, no future."

We must also continue to speak up against any form of xenophobia, being antisemitism or any other kind. Wiesel came out of the camps barely alive, but he still had enough breath to keep fighting. He wasn't only the ambassador of Holocaust remembrance, but also spoke against any and all ills rooted in racism. The current threat of a global annihilation of Israel and the Jews is very real. Europe is on high alert, Israel has been on edge since 1948 and the rest of the world can often be found on the forefront of the new antisemitism, blindly demonizing the Jews. Be aware and sensitive to what is happening in your own community and be responsive to defend and even lend a hand when needed. It is always appropriate to reach out and help those in need, even if they turn you down, your intentions will not go unnoticed.

In Night, Wiesel capsulized the agonizing feeling of not being able to forget the atrocities of the Holocaust " Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp, which has turned my life into one long night, seven times cursed and seven times sealed. Never shall I forget that smoke. Never shall I forget the little faces of the children, whose bodies I saw turned into wreaths of smoke beneath a silent blue sky. Never shall I forget those flames which consumed my faith forever. Never shall I forget that nocturnal silence which deprived me, for all eternity, of the desire to live. Never shall I forget those moments which murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to dust. Never shall I forget these things, even if I am condemned to live as long as God Himself. Never."

To honor the memory of Elie Wiesel is more than appropriate, but to remember the Holocaust is vital to the survival of Western civilization. As a matter of fact, to remember the Holocaust and teach it to the next generation IS to honor the memory of Elie Wiesel.