Lunar New Year falls on January 25, 2020. This Lunar New Year – the Year of the Rat – coincides with the liberation of the infamous Auschwitz extermination complex on January 27, 1945. Of course, by the time Soviet troops advanced on Auschwitz, the dreaded fanatical instruments of National Socialist hatred, the Schutzstaffel, or SS, sent the bulk of the camp’s population on death marches to confinement facilities in Germany and Austria. Yet, there is an uncanny correlation – a bizarre, surreal parallel – between the two events.
Some 75 years ago, the Red Army entered Auschwitz. During its abominable existence, an estimated 1.1 million perished within the confines of that camp. Those not gassed as part of the “Final Solution,” died of starvation, disease, physical abuse, and medical experiments. Auschwitz has become the primary symbol of the Holocaust. On January 27, 2005, the United Nations General Assembly designated that day – January 27 – as International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Survivors of Nazi barbarism – those that had been confined in camps such as Auschwitz – were deprived of their dignity and their humanity. What, at one time, was human had been brutally transformed into regimented zombie-like beings. Those who had survived the ordeals of the camps were disfigured, emaciated, and lifeless. Their frigid, blank stares served as a horrible, hapless testimony that all hope had been abandoned. Holocaust survivors faced the challenge of reconnecting with – and to – a different world. The world that they had known prior to the rise of National Socialism was gone.
The Rat begins the Chinese zodiac. The Rat is characterized as being agile and adaptable to any situation. Essentially, the Rat is a survivor; and, when given the opportunity, will overcome the challenges of his environment.
Those who survived the camps, such as Auschwitz, are truly inspiring. Indeed, they endured, survived, and overcame the tribulations of their environment; and, by doing so, taught the world an important lesson. Anne Frank stated it best, “What has been done cannot be undone, but one can prevent it happening again.”
As the generation of Holocaust survivors – as well as the liberators – dwindles; it is up to us to keep the torch of remembrance burning brightly, so it can serve as a guiding light for education, understanding, compassion, and tolerance.
We cannot allow such a flame to be extinguished.
John Di Genio
Albert J. Cupo