Since 1996, every year on 27 January Germany commemorates the Day of Rememberance for the Victims of National Socialism. Explicitly, in order to remember all victims of National Socialism. The commemoration day refers to the anniversary of the 27 January 1945, when the concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz-Birkenau was liberated by the Red Army. For the same reason the day was declared International Holocaust Remembrance Day by the United Nations in 2005. It is now commemorated in various European countries.
The concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau was the largest extermination camp of the National Socialist regime. In total at least 1.1 Million people were murdered at the camp complex between 1940 and 1945. The place is like none other a symbol for the crimes of National Socialism. More than 90 percent of the victims were Jews, but other groups like political prisoners, Sinti and Roma, homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses and prisoners of war were in Auschwitz, too. On 27 January 1945, there were still about 7,000 people on the sites that were liberated, among them about 500 children. Previously, everyone who had any strength left was forced on “death marches” to the west, in order to eliminate the traces of the genocide.
In our line of work we are repeatedly faced with the sad and gruesome family stories that were shaped by National Socialism. The more important it is that these crimes are commemorated today throughout Germany (and beyond): In order to honor the victims, but also in order to prevent them from happening again.
The commemoration day was designated and set on this date in early January 1996 by the German Federal President Roman Herzog (1934-2017, Federal President 1994-1999). Usually, apart from an hour of remembrance at the German Federal Parliament and the flags being at half-mast, there are various events nationwide like guided tours, readings, theatre performances and church services. They commemorate the events and are supposed to prevent them from happening again. In Hamburg, an award for young people with moral courage, the Bertini-Preis, is presented. The name is based on the autobiographical novel “Die Bertinis” (the family Bertini) by the in Hamburg born writer Ralph Giordano (1923-2014) that pictures the fate of the family under the National Socialist dictatorship.
In 2021, the 25th anniversary of the commemoration day in Germany, many of these events will not be possible or at least not in the usual way due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Hopefully, still many people in many cities will lay down flowers and candles at the so-called “Stolpersteinen” (stumbling stones) and memorials like it is also done on 09 November.
Also, in 2021 Jewish people are verifiably living on the territory of today’s Germany for 1,700 years. As part of the anniversary year there are planned nationwide events - as far as the COVID-19 situation allows.