Today we observe Holocaust Remembrance Day to mark the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi concentration camp, and to remember the victims of the holocaust. Today is also an opportunity to recognize that hate crimes targeting Jewish, Muslim, and black Canadians are on the rise and that we have a collective responsibility to resist modern anti-Semitism and hate in all its forms.
As a union, we are mindful of the impact of the Nazi regime and the holocaust on working people. Nazi propaganda argued that many leaders of trade unions were Jews who were involved in a joint conspiracy with capitalists. After coming to power, Hitler banned trade unions and the right to strike in Nazi Germany, occupying all trade unions headquarters and arresting union officials and leaders.
Nazi Germany exploited the labor of Jews and occupied peoples throughout the Second World War. More than 14 million people and 2.5 million prisoners of war were transported to Germany for labor. Labor shortages in the German war economy led to the increased use of prisoners as forced laborers in German industries.
The Nazis singled out Jewish labourers for cruel treatment. Ghettos and forced labour camps served as bases for utilizing Jewish labour. The ability to work could save one’s life, but most often only temporarily. Jews deemed unproductive by the Nazis were often the first to be shot or deported.
Also targeted in the holocaust included Slavs, Poles, Ukrainians, Romani, People with Disabilities, Non-Europeans, the LBGTQ+ community, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and other members of religious and political groups opposed by the Nazis.
Generations ago, in the face of the horrors of fascism and the holocaust , the world decided “never again.” The time to live up to that promise is now. On this day, CUPE members pledge to continue challenging anti-Semitism and hatred in all its forms.