The Department of Education (DepEd) underscored the importance of the culture of social justice and diversity during the International Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony on Thursday, January 26.
“The Holocaust saw the systemic oppression and persecution of six million Jewish victims and millions of others. The atrocity committed by the Nazi regime and their collaborators is beyond comprehension. Still, we must remember, and we must not forget, the names and the faces of the victims, the families torn apart, and the communities destroyed. We must remember so we may never forget the dangers of hate and intolerance,” Vice President and Secretary Sara Z. Duterte said in her message.
“We are responsible for ensuring that the lessons of the Holocaust and the stories of the survivors are passed on to future generations so that it will never happen again. We must ensure that these stories are not lost so we can learn from them and prevent other atrocities from happening again,” she added.
Spearheaded by the International Cooperation Office (ICO), the event was attended by the DepEd Executive Committee, the United Nations delegation represented by the Department of Foreign Affairs-United Nations and International Organization Assistant Secretary Kira Danganan-Azucena, the Israel Embassy headed by Ambassador Ilan Fluss, and the Department of Foreign Affairs represented by Assistant Secretary Mardomel Melicor of the Middle East and African Affairs.
Additionally, Undersecretary for Curriculum and Teaching Gina O. Gonong highlighted the lessons imparted by the Holocaust. “This unfortunate event inspires us to produce peace-loving and peace-building learners and strive to transform our schools into safe spaces for everyone where [we] keep our human values alive,” Gonong said.
DepEd also recognized the need to continue to promote Holocaust education across all schools in the county and to persuade other DepEd field offices to join these kinds of commemoration events. The department also reaffirmed its commitment to encouraging its teachers and learners to be advocates for social justice and respect for human rights.
The DepEd chief also cited the late President Manuel Quezon’s Open-Door Policy that enabled thousands of Jewish refugees to seek temporary refuge in the Philippines, which embodies the Filipinos’ kindheartedness.
Led by VP Secretary Duterte and the various partners in attendance, six candles were lit to remember the six million Jews that were victims of the Holocaust. A prayer was also offered before the ceremonial candle lighting.
Israeli Ambassador to the Philippines Ilan Fluss, in a separate statement thanked Vice President Duterte and her team who organized the event and made the 27th of January a formal day of commemorating the holocaust in all DepEd schools and facilities.
“The Holocaust is the darkest time in human history—especially for the Jewish people. It was an unprecedented event from 1942 to 1945 when Nazi Germany attempted to annihilate the Jewish people. Six million Jews—one third of the Jewish population—were murdered for the sole reason that they were Jewish,” Ambassador Fluss explained. “Today we are witnessing voices of denial of the Holocaust and increasing anti-Semitism. This cannot be ignored; we can never let it happen again. We must remember, learn, teach, educate, and say—never again.”
The Israeli envoy also remembered the act of former president Quezon of opening the country’s doors to over 1,300 Jewish refugees fleeing the Nazi regime in 1939. “President Quezon saved not only those individuals, but also their future families,” he said.