Christian leaders across denominations commemorated International Holocaust Remembrance Day on Wednesday to keep alive the memory of the atrocities that took place in the Nazi concentration camps more than 65 years ago and to also highlight the need to be alert in protecting human life today.
"As those who directly connect us and our children with that archetypal genocide pass from this life, we are confronted with the challenge of keeping alive the reality of what happened and of its defining significance," commented Archbishop of Canterbury Dr. Rowan Williams, head of the worldwide Anglican Communion.
"Our 2010 commemoration of the Holocaust has at its heart the survivors of the Shoah ('Holocaust' in Hebrew), the unique human beings who are the primary source for our continued attention, our understanding and our need to continue to work at the lessons in a world that seems not yet to have learned them," he added in a released statement.
"We need to be alert to the signs of a casual attitude to the value of human lives, whether by acts of terrorism or more subtly, in relation to disability, or the beginning or end of life."
Since 2006, Jan. 27 has been set aside by the U.N. General Assembly to mark the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi concentration camp, as well as to commemorate the victims of the Nazi regime during World War II.
From the late 1930s to 1945, six million Jews were killed by the Nazis and their collaborators, including one million at the Auschwitz and Birkenau camps.
"Most know the grim tales of what happened in Nazi death camps only too well – six million Jews killed, the gas chambers, the crematoriums, forced labor," commented U.S. conservative evangelical Chuck Colson.
"If the phrase 'Never again' is to be true, that's a lesson each of us needs to learn and re-learn," he added.
In marking Holocaust Remembrance Day, Pope Benedict XVI told his weekly audience Wednesday that the memory of "heinous crimes of an unheard-of cruelty" should induce respect for all human beings.
The German-born pope called the death camps "abhorrent and inhumane places" and recalled the "blind racial and religious hatred" and "homicidal madness" that led to the sufferings and deaths of so many.
Benedict prayed that by remembering the Nazis' victims, all people worldwide would come to a greater respect for each human being and for the fact that there is only one human family.
"May Almighty God enlighten hearts and minds so that such tragedies are never repeated," the pontiff stated.