Why acknowledging International Holocaust Remembrance Day is more important than ever


Ellen Korman Mains

This year, second-generation Holocaust survivor and bestselling memoirist Ellen Korman Mains will mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day on Jan. 27 at the site of the infamous Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland. Mains is making the trip, one of many she has taken to ensure that the world does not forget the murder of over six million Jews who were killed in concentration camps and mass graves during World War II.

Mains says, “It’s important to commemorate such events, not only to remember the dead, but to combat ignorance of the past and to remind ourselves that genocides and mass violence are continuing.”

As proof, Mains cites a recent study by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany; among other things, the study found that two-thirds of American millennials could not identify what Auschwitz is and 22 percent had not even heard of the Holocaust. Adults who participated in the survey did not fare much better. Seven out of ten Americans said fewer people seem to care about the Holocaust than they used to and 58 percent believed that another Holocaust could happen. Furthermore, only about 20 percent of Americans have visited a Holocaust museum, according to the survey.

Mains says, “Since the Holocaust was perpetrated and allowed to take place by ‘ordinary people’ not so different from ourselves, it’s important to look at the inner roots of genocide, and how we can help prevent them from spreading.”

In her new book, Buried Rivers: A Spiritual Journey into the Holocaust (West Lake Books), Mains, whose mother survived Auschwitz, explores her family’s lost history and the question of “basic goodness” while journeying through Poland and Germany, where she felt the souls of the dead seeking resolution of this question.

The daughter of Polish-born Jews who survived the Holocaust, Ellen Korman Mains has led meditation retreats in both North America and Europe, and speaks to groups on the subject of ancestral connection and inherited trauma. Trained in several body-mind disciplines, she works with individuals to deepen compassionate self-awareness. A citizen of Canada, where she was born, the USA, and Poland, she lives mainly in Boulder, Colo., but spends extended periods of time in Poland teaching, promoting dialog, and connecting with her heritage.


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