President's Commentary: 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz

World War II saw some of the darkest days of our civilization.

by Larry Brown, NUPGE President

As we recognize the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, a concentration camp established by the Germans during World War II, we turn our thoughts to those who suffered and died under one of the most hateful regimes we have ever seen.

On January 27, 1945, Soviet forces rescued the 7,000 prisoners left behind after the SS began to flee to Germany and Austria with more than 60,000, mostly Jewish, prisoners. Thousands of others had been killed in the days leading up to the death marches. More than 15,000 prisoners died during these marches from the cold weather, exposure and starvation. Anyone who could not keep up was shot. Those left behind were ill and dying.

It is estimated that between 1940 and 1945, 1.3 million were sent to Auschwitz. Of those, 1.1 million were killed. The Holocaust was the ideological and systemic state-sponsored persecution and mass murder of millions of European Jewish people.

While the extermination of the Jewish population was an intention of Hitler, others were also targeted for racial, political, ideological and behavioural reasons. It is estimated that 6 million Jews and 11 million others died in the Holocaust.

So, while the war came to an end, and people celebrated the return home of loved ones, not everyone would celebrate.  For those touched by the atrocity of the Holocaust, the horrors would follow their families for generations.

In 2005, the United Nations General Assembly declared January 27 as the International Day of Commemoration in memory of the victims and to honour those lives lost and those who continue to face persecution.

One would think, “How could we ever forget such a traumatic part of our history,” but decades later, the violence against Jewish people continues. There has been a dramatic rise of attacks targeting Jewish schools, community centres, synagogues and individual community members throughout much of Europe and the Americas.

Last year, the United Nations released its first comprehensive report on global anti-Semitism. Ahmed Shaheed, the UN’s special rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, stated that he was “alarmed by the growing use of anti-Semitic tropes by white supremacists, including neo-Nazis and members of radical Islamist groups, in slogans, images, stereotypes and conspiracy theories to incite and justify hostility, discrimination and violence against Jews.”

If there’s ever a time when we need reminding of the atrocities that are possible when we allow hate and hateful policies to grow, it’s today. 

We are proud to stand with our Sisters and Brothers in the Jewish community to continue to fight hate, oppression and intolerance.


The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 390,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. — NUPGE