by Dr. Lauren Bairnsfather, Director of the Holocaust Center of Pittsburgh

January 27, 1945 – Soviet troops liberated Auschwitz, the infamous Nazi concentration camp in Poland.

In 2005, the United Nations introduced International Holocaust Remembrance Day, to be observed each year on January 27.

The UN Holiday is designated an International day of commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust. The purpose and scope of the day differ from Israel’s Yom HaShoah, a memorial day for Jewish victims and heroes of the Holocaust, which was introduced in 1951.

The definition of International Holocaust Remembrance Day follows the shift that occurred in Holocaust museums and centers around the world following the opening of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in April 1993. The land, adjacent to the National Mall, was a gift from the Federal Government, which stipulated that the museum should honor the liberators and remember all victims of Nazism.

In previous decades, the endeavor of Holocaust remembrance had been conducted mostly by and for Jewish communities around the world, and the Holocaust Center of Pittsburgh grew from that tradition.

The Holocaust Center of Pittsburgh has a long and rich history of observing Yom HaShoah. The intensely meaningful commemoration is an essential part of our annual calendar, for some as significant as the Jewish High Holidays.

International Holocaust Remembrance Day does not evoke the sanctity of Yom HaShoah. Yet while the Holocaust Center has not regularly conducted programming around International Holocaust Remembrance Day, it is clearly within our mission to do so, as we have moved with the times to offer programming about all actors involved in the Holocaust, inclusive of all of the victims of Nazism.

While the destruction of the Jews of Europe was a vile Nazi obsession, Nazis had endless hate to share and spread. International Holocaust Remembrance Day compels us to name and to mourn every victim group and to hold the Nazis and their collaborators to account.

The Day also calls for us to keep our eyes open to genocides that have been perpetrated since the Holocaust and those that are happening today.

Never again will never be a reality if we remain silent.

The Holocaust Center of Pittsburgh will observe International Holocaust Remembrance Day on Saturday, January 27, with a screening of the rare East German film Sterne (Stars). This film is more than a love story, though it is certainly that. It is also a historically significant film that was one of the first to address the realities of the Holocaust and acknowledge oft-neglected victim groups, such as Sephardic Jews. It is linguistically significant, with its use of four languages, including Ladino. And it is culturally significant, having won the 1959 Special Grand Jury Prize at the Cannes International Film Festival. Carnegie Mellon’s Department of Modern Languages and Rodef Shalom are co-sponsors of this event. We hope you will join us.

To register for the Sterne screening, visit:

For more on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, and the controversial White House Statement from last year, see my editorial from The Jewish Chronicle:

Yom HaShoah 2018 will be observed on Thursday, April 12.


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