On this day, 75 years ago, Soviet forces reached the Nazi incarceration and extermination complex at Auschwitz. What they found has made the name synonymous with evil but the camp was one hub in a lethal network that reached across occupied Europe. The suffering it caused is beyond imagination or understanding, yet it is the irreconcilable reality Europeans must live with. There are not many witnesses still living; before long, there will be none. Memory will have ossified into history. And history is contested.
In 2018, my grandfather’s account of Nazi crimes in Thessaloniki (Greece) was republished for the first time in 70 years. Since then, my mother and I have worked on an English-language edition, including some of my father’s unpublished memories. Talking Until Nightfall (the title is a phrase from my grandfather) will be published by Bloomsbury in July 2020. It will mark the fulfilment of a duty to the witnesses. Then, history will take up the burden and we must hope that future generations will not only see truth clearly but act well in consequence. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was one important answer to the liberation of Auschwitz. We have yet to make its promise a reality.