January 27 1945: The Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp complex’s 7,000 remaining ill and dying prisoners were liberated, a few days after nearly 60,000 prisoners were forced to evacuate the camp, during which many thousands lost their lives. 60 years later – November 1, 2005, the United Nations General Assembly passed Resolution 60/7 to designate January 27th as the International Day of Commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust, to mark and remember the Holocaust and its victims. It is estimated that around 1.1 million people were killed in Auschwitz alone, during the less than 5 years of its existence. As many as 15-20 million people may have been killed in the various 42,500 Nazi camps and ghettoes between 1933 and 1945.
Nazi hatred also included a vast array of religions, ethnicities and cultures. By 1945 at least five million gentiles had also fallen victim to it. Among those who were also killed are the 108 Martyrs of World War II, including the friars known as the Blessed Martyrs of Niepokalanów, who were declared blessed by the Saint Pope John-Paul II, on June 13, 1999, all sharing June 12th as their Feast Day. On August 14th, we honor and remember the most well-known Franciscan Conventual Friar Martyr of the Holocaust is St. Maximilian M. Kolbe, OFM Conv., who was canonized in 1982 by Saint Pope John Paul II, and declared a Martyr of Charity.
Loving God, You care for each and every human life.
All people are cherished as Your beloved children,
no matter how ordinary or extraordinary their stories are.
Today we come before You
to remember the victims of the Holocaust.
We lament the loss of the six million Jews
who were killed in the Holocaust,
the millions of other victims of Nazi persecution,
and victims of all genocides.
May our minds be clear and attentive to their memory,
and our hearts be moved to bear witness to their lives.
Help us all to turn away from hatred and division,
and to build a world where genocide is no more.
Strengthen us so that we,
in our own ordinary ways,
may show extraordinary love in the world today.