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Today, the world remembers the 11 million innocent people murdered by the Nazi Regime in 1940s Germany, at a time when the free world is plagued with targeted hatred and bigotry.

According to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum's website, there were far more people who died during the Holocaust than the 6 million Jews who were killed. The website indicates that "German authorities also persecuted other groups because of their perceived racial and biological inferiority."

"These included Roma ('Gypsies'), people with disabilities, some of the Slavic peoples (Poles, Russians, and others), Soviet prisoners of war and Black people," the website states.

Growing up as a Jew, International Holocaust Remembrance day seemed to pass by every year with little notice from my classmates and me. We took for granted the privilege we had, being able to look back at the horrors of the Shoah and say, “Well, that was then, and something like that could never happen now.”

In middle school, my 7th-grade class visited the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C., which today is temporarily closed in fear of falling victim to hate crimes. My roommate, whose father is a Rabbi, recently started carrying a gun for his own protection after multiple threats and frightening interferences at his Synagogue.

On Jan. 6, I watched in horror with the rest of the world as a rioter wearing a sweatshirt in promotion of, and unabashedly emblazoned, with “Camp Auschwitz” attacked the sacred structure that promises and enforces the freedom to express religion: the United States Capitol Building.

No longer am I able to gaze at these problems through a foggy window of ignorance. Unfortunately, the Jewish community and I are forced to see these occurrences in 20/20 vision.

In the summer of 2019, I visited the Yad Vashem memorial museum in Jerusalem, Israel with my family. One particularly striking exhibit honors the lives of 1.5 million Jewish children murdered in the Holocaust.

In a pitch-black circular room, with walls lined in mirrors, a single candle is lit. The light from the candle reflects thousands of times onto the mirrors, bouncing around the circular room until you are engulfed and overwhelmed in tiny flickers of light.

Today, on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, I feel as if it’s my Jewish community standing in the center of that room, reflecting onto the mirrors their prayers and hope that the American people will see them for what they are: human beings deserving of tolerance and respect.

We are nothing special; only people. What’s a human’s life worth in the face of political controversy? We only have examples of the past to provide us with an answer.

So on this day of remembrance, in this modern age, in a country that venerates its ideals of freedom, remember to come back to the basics and love your neighbor. For the weaving of unity, love and understanding are stronger than the threads of one man’s sweatshirt.

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