Nash Holos: January 27th marks the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1945.

Welcome to Ukrainian Jewish Heritage ... a radio series on Nash Holos Ukrainian Roots Radio ... sponsored by the Ukrainian Jewish Encounter based in Toronto, Ontario.

January 27th marks the anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi German Concentration and Extermination Camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1945.

Fifty years later, in November of 2005, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed January 27th International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust, or simply International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

The Holocaust was a defining moment in the history of humanity. During WWII, some six million Jewish men, women and children were murdered in a continent-wide programme carried out by Nazi Germany and its allies, a program that was intent on the total destruction of all Jewish communities and every Jewish person.

Driven by a fundamentally racist ideology, Nazi Germany also persecuted and killed millions of other people. These included Slavs, Roma, Sinti, the elderly, the disabled. Some were considered by the Nazis as “untermenschen” ... essentially, “subhuman.” Others were targeted for political, ideological or behavioural reasons.

UNESCO, The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, believes that learning the history of the Holocaust will help us better understand the causes of society’s descent into genocide. It will also help raise awareness of the need to nurture peace and human rights in order to prevent mass violence in today’s world.

International Holocaust Remembrance Day presents an opportunity to commemorate Holocaust victims in a global effort and to alert younger generations about the dangers of racist and fanatic ideologies.

Ukraine has taken several steps to take advantage of this opportunity, at the institutional level as well as smaller-scale, grassroots community endeavours.

In 2002 the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences established The Ukrainian Center for Holocaust Studies in Kyiv, to pursue Holocaust research and education.

Research projects at the Centre encompass a wide variety of aspects of the Holocaust ... from Nazi ideology, antisemitism and Holocaust denial, to comparative research of the Holocaust and other cases of genocide.

The Centre’s education component involves the publication of its own scholarly works on the Holocaust, as well as supporting Holocaust education across Ukraine. The Centre consults with Holocaust history teachers in secondary and post-secondary institutions, promotes the creation of curricula and manuals on the Holocaust, and organizes annual competitions of students' research and art works.

The Centre also participates in international projects with academic institutions all over the world.

On January 24 2014, an art exhibit opened at the Ukrainian Centre for Holocaust Studies, entitled "History and Lessons of the Holocaust — The Holocaust through the eyes of children in Ukraine.”

The exhibit is a collection of art works created by students from all over the country for an annual competition launched by the Ukrainian Center for Holocaust Studies in 2008.

The students looked into histories of their hometowns, regions, fates of individual families, commemoration practices and other aspects relating to this experience of genocide. Visit their website to find out more. Just search for the Ukrainian Centre for Holocaust Studies in Kyiv.

On a smaller, but no less significant scale, are independent performing arts groups, such as The Sholom Aleichem Jewish music and drama theater of Kyiv.

This small but outstanding theatre company will premiere its first work of the New Year, a play entitled “The Jewish Wife,” to commemorate the 2015 International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Based on the novella by the noted German playwright and theatre director Berthold Brecht, the story revolves around a German man who leaves his wife simply because she is Jewish, fearing that this will cause him problems.

The play will be performed on January 27th at the Pushkin Museum.

These are just a few examples of how Ukraine is keeping alive the memory of the Holocaust – in order to learn from the past, for the sake of the future.

To find out more, follow the Ukrainian Jewish Encounter and Nash Holos Ukrainian Roots Radio on Facebook, Twitter, and online.