In 1945 on January 27th, the concentration camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau was liberated. It was not the first, nor was it the last — or the oldest. It was, however, the biggest.

Every year, the 27th of January is Holocaust Memorial Day. A day when the world comes together to remember the unbelievable horrors perpetrated by a regime that contorted morality by denying one particular group of people the most basic of human rights: the right to life. When the horrors of the camps were exposed, the world said ‘never again.’ And yet, almost eighty years on, some choose to deny that it ever happened.

‘Never Again’?

Certain pictures say a thousand words. Others leave you speechless, unable to comprehend the magnitude of what they convey. The images and films taken during the liberation of concentration camps between 1944 and 1945 simultaneously fall into these categories. The sight of human beings shivering in ragged striped pyjamas, muscles wasting away from malnutrition, burns in my mind. You cannot help it when you see something so shocking. These people were considered the ‘lucky’ ones. Millions of others never got to see an Allied army opening the gates to free them. Most never even got to say goodbye to the relatives with whom they were forcibly transported to the death camps. Millions of lives were taken mercilessly, to become piles of ash.

The world saw and said: ‘Never again.’

Approximately 2.7 million Jews were systematically murdered at Nazi killing centres, 2 million in mass shootings, and between 800,000 to 1 million in the ghettos, labour camps, and concentration camps. Many more died from systematic acts of violence.

The camps served as the ‘final solution’ for the mass extermination of Jews and other ‘undesirable’ groups of people only after other methods had been exhausted.

The Einsatzgruppen (special task forces), were the main vehicle for these atrocities. These were essentially killing squads that advanced behind the Wehrmacht (defence force) to dispose of anyone considered undesirable or subhuman. Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union described as a ‘war of annihilation,’ saw the worst of these killings. German soldiers were given a carte blanche to behave with brutality as long as their actions carried ideological justification.

Babyn Yar, just outside Kyiv, was the site of one of the worst massacres. Thousands of Jews (33,771), were murdered in just two days. In many cases, the victims were forced to dig their own graves before watching their people be killed one by one.

The world heard about this, too, and said: ‘Never again!’

Holocaust Distortion

Our present world, however, has not been repeating the above words as one. Holocaust denialism and distortion are on the rise, amplified by social media. When the past is eradicated or diluted, this presents a profound danger to our future. Given the inevitable passage of time, many in my generation, and the generation after mine, will never meet or listen to a Holocaust survivor in person.

The unstoppable rise of AI-generated images is sowing growing distrust in the authenticity of the pictures taken during liberation. Some people argue, plausibly but erroneously, that these images have been fabricated to serve a certain purpose.

As a generation, I believe we owe it to history and the dead to not only say ‘never again’, but to say it with full conviction and all the determination we can muster.

I will end this with a quote from Dee R. Eberhart, following his role in the liberation of Dachau:

‘In the 75 years since the liberation of KZ Dachau, my incomprehension of how this horror could have happened has not eroded. For me, there were no answers on April 29, 1945, nor 75 years later. How could there have been such arrogance of power to inflict so much suffering and death on so many victims and cut short so much potential for good? The 75th anniversary of the liberation serves as a reminder of what happened and could happen again unless emergent forces of depravity and evil are extinguished.’

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