In Remembering the Holocaust, Let's Reaffirm Our Commitment to the World's Children

There is much to think about this week during these Holocaust Days of Remembrance. This is a time to commemorate those who suffered and died at the hands of the Nazis. It is a time to recall that darkest chapter of human history, the systematic annihilation of 6 million Jews, including more than a million children. It is also a time to pay tribute to all those who risked their lives to try to save those who suffered. And it is a time to once again resolve to never, ever be indifferent in the face of human tragedy.

Today, children continue to suffer and die in many parts of the world as direct targets of attack and abuse. Some 15 million children are currently caught up in violent conflicts. In South Sudan, where there is ongoing sectarian violence, some 1,200 children were killed, maimed, raped or kidnapped last year alone. Child torture and trafficking has been rampant in Iraq. In Syria, more than 1.7 million children are living as refugees, threatened and traumatized by civil war. And in Yemen and Ukraine, children's lives are increasingly in danger due to escalating conflict.

We mustn't stand for any of it. We must support the ongoing efforts of UNICEF and its partners to bring emergency support and services to these children, and to all children in need. Brutality of any scope or scale demands our attention, whether it is one, 100, 1,000 or a million lives at stake.

I am reminded often of how my mother was spared, how she escaped the Holocaust at age 6 -- she and her brother were brought by a family acquaintance to New York City, where they were cared for in an orphanage run by kind Christian nuns. (She remained a Jew.) My mother believes her survival now requires that she take on the responsibility to fight against suffering and injustice. She believes in tikkun olam, the Judaic mandate to leave the world better than you found it. And she passed that belief on to me. My mother -- and the circumstances of her own survival -- also taught me that the actions of one person can make a difference, that each one of us can make a difference.

In the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum's excellent educational video, "Why We Remember," Rev. Dr. Chris Leighton of the Institute for Christian and Jewish Studies makes a good point. What happened in Nazi Germany was so horrific, so "mind-bogging," that "the temptation to forget, to repress, to put it out of mind, are very real." But we do remember, the narration continues, because we need to remember what human beings are capable of.

At UNICEF we face this reality every day. We believe that all the world's children have a right to survive and thrive, to learn and to play, to love and be loved. And so, while we honor the victims of the Holocaust and all those who fought to end it, let's also reaffirm our commitment to the future -- a future of hope and safety and protection for the children of today, and the children of tomorrow. Let's all leave the world better than we found it.