Mayor Ethan Strimling’s remarks during the opening ceremony of the community Yom Hashoah Holocaust Remembrance Day Observance & Film at the University of Southern Maine
Sunday, April 23rd, 2017
"Today, Yom HaShoah, we remember the Holocaust, a unique horror in human history. But our remembrance must not be unique to today. For some it is a memory that cannot ever leave them; they lived it. For the rest of us, it is our solemn duty to keep this memory alive, to keep these flames burning, to “Never Forget!”
The Holocaust was unique, because, while genocide is all too common in human history and continues to this day, no one before or since has set up an entire machinery, an industry solely dedicated to the murder of human beings. At Auschwitz ten-thousand people a day were murdered. Ten-thousand! Day after day, month after month, year after year. In the face of this horror we are struck dumb. There are no words.
But life does go on, words go on, we go on. And now, today, here in the present, we can’t help looking to the past for meaning, for lessons, for reminders. Because sometimes we need reminders more than we need new teaching. So, as we remember, we must not only be aware of the past, we must also sensitize ourselves to the present.
We can be aware that while the Holocaust was unique, it also resonates with terrible injustices and dangers that are happening right now, today, as we speak. We must pay attention to the shocking rise in anti-Semitic rhetoric, threats, and violence — right here in our own beloved Portland and around the country and the world. We must also pay attention to oppression of other minorities — immigrants and refugees, Christians in Syria and Iraq, gay people in Chechnya, Kurds in Turkey. Yom HaShoah urges us also to pay attention to the present, and reminds us of that ringing phrase, “Never again!”
Elie Wiesel, of blessed memory, said that “Never again!” is more of a prayer than a promise. And that has proven to be a sad truth.
So today, on Yom HaShoah, the Day of Remembrance, let us remember, yes, fully remember. And let us, each of us, also resolve to do all we can to turn the prayer “Never again!” into a promise, “Never again!” And soon, even more, into a reality. “Never again!”
Thank you and Shalom."