The Holocaust is the name applied to the systematic state-sponsored persecution and genocide of the Jews of Europe along with other racial or demographic groups from 1933 – 1945 by Nazi Germany and its collaborators. Estimates vary, but most historians believe that the Nazi government systematically annihilated eleven million people. Of this total, 6 million were Jews.
In April of 1978, President Jimmy Carter announced the formation of the President’s Commission on the Holocaust, naming Elie Wiesel its chairman. On September 27, 1979 the Commission released its “Report to the President”, a thirty-two-page document that the formed the basis for future congressional legislation. The Commission’s recommendations to create a “living memorial” and establish a national recognition of Days of Remembrance were adopted by a unanimous Act of Congress in 1980. Beginning with that legislation, the United States has officially observed a specific week each spring to commemorate and honor those who were systemically persecuted and annihilated by Nazi Germany.
Days of Remembrance events are observed throughout the United States, with many communities believing the event ‘stresses’ the importance of tolerance and understanding among people. There are no ‘guidelines’ for such commemorations. In general, the event has been observed with prayers, candle lighting, speakers, poems, and singing. Many times Holocaust survivors speak of their experiences or share in the readings. At some ceremonies participants read from the Book of Names for certain periods of time in an effort to remember the dead and provide a glimpse of the enormity of the death toll. However they are organized and conducted, these Days of Remembrance events serve to honor those who perished during the Nazi reign of terror.
To view past Days of Remembrance events, please click here.