NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) — Joint Base Langley-Eustis honored the lives of those lost in the Holocaust on Monday as part of our country’s Holocaust Days of Remembrance.
In 1980, Congress established the Days of Remembrance and created the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
The event on base included a memorial candle lighting and reading of names, as well as special guest speaker Nicole Yancey.
Yancey is a Newport News resident, but was born in France during World War II. She spoke to soldiers and airmen about hiding at the age of two on a farm to escape Nazis. She says her father joined the Free French Forces in North Africa and her family escaped so they wouldn’t be punished.
While it was a tragic time for others, Yancey says it was a very warm and loving experience being taken in by those who risked everything.
“I’m here today, it’s thanks to them. They took great danger. They took great danger because any person who helped a Jewish family or member of the family were killed. Their lives were in danger,” she said.
Yancey says actions like this are still important and that we must continue to stand up to hate given the Bosnian genocide, and more recently the deadly shooting at a synagogue in California.
“After World War II, we felt all that violence and hatred was over. We thought never again and that’s not true,” she said.
To combat that hate, Yancey says it’s important to learn about the past, but also to love others.
“We have to educate and tell the story and we have to say what you do matters, what you say matters,” she said.
Yancey believes that is extremely important with the rise of social media, which can influence so many people.
The event also included a presentation for the military members about the individual actions of those who served in the German army during the war.
It included different responses from military leaders who were ordered to kill the Jewish people. Some responses included not following orders, while others did so without hesitation.
Colonel Frederick Crist, commander of the 597th Transportation Brigade that hosted the event, says it was important to include this information to show younger soldiers and airmen that individual decisions matter and have consequences.
“At the end of the day, it comes down to individual leader actions and decisions and it comes down to compassion and ethical decision making so we act with an ethical grounding in everything we do,” he said.
Yancey wants people to remember their individual decisions and that we are all more alike than we think.
“The human being is beautiful and through the years we have all fought for the same thing-to be free, to be happy, to raise our families. It’s not that difficult, so let’s try to stop that violence. Let’s try and be civil to each other,” she said.
Yancey was also the first foreign student to attend Christopher Newport University and is the mother of Delegate David Yancey.