Early on Jan. 6, 1943, the Gestapo and their collaborators surrounded the ghetto of Randomsk, Poland, and ordered Jews to assemble in the streets. Whoever fell to the ground while being chased outdoors was shot, leaving a fresh blanket of snow stained with blood.

Among those brutalized that day were my father and his family. Ultimately, his mother, three sisters, brother-in-law and 2-year-old nephew were herded into cattle cars bound for Treblinka’s gas chambers. 

Weighing 85 pounds after his rescue, my father found himself in a makeshift hospital lying beside a former inmate. He held my dad’s hand and whispered, “I’m happy to die a free man. Tell the world what happened and to not forget.” He then closed his eyes. My father’s promise to his friend became a lifelong duty that is my legacy.

Resurgent violence against Jews is a terrifying backdrop to Thursday’s Yom Ha’Shoah/ Holocaust Remembrance Day, observed every year to memorialize the 6 million men, women and children who were savagely murdered as humanity’s bystanders shriveled in silence. A generation of Jews, including almost all my parents’ relatives, was systematically exterminated following a dramatic proliferation of virulent anti-Semitism.

Weighing 85 pounds after his rescue, my father found himself in a makeshift hospital lying beside a former inmate. He held my dad’s hand and whispered, “I’m happy to die a free man. Tell the world what happened and to not forget.” He then closed his eyes. My father’s promise to his friend became a lifelong duty that is my legacy.

Only seven decades after my parents barely survived Europe’s human slaughterhouse, Jews again are common targets – whether in a kosher grocery in Paris, a Jewish museum in Brussels, a tourist resort in Argentina or in graves across Europe. 

Our synagogues aren’t safe zones either. The murder in February of a man outside a synagogue in Copenhagen was the latest in a series of attacks since last summer. Our spiritual homes have been targeted throughout Europe and in Jerusalem, where Palestinians wielding guns, axes and butcher knives stormed a synagogue and killed four worshippers in November. Photos of the aftermath revealed blood-soaked prayer shawls.

Those images are chillingly familiar. On the eve of the Jewish holiday of Succoth in 1942, the Nazis stormed a synagogue in Wodzislaw, Poland, and dragged 10 worshipers wrapped in their prayer shawls out at gunpoint. The victims were marched to the Jewish cemetery, forced to dig their own graves and shot. One of those men was my mother’s father.

The world has failed to apply history’s stinging lessons to present-day evil, as escalating acts of terror against Jews often are glossed over. It is human nature to embrace the notion that such malevolence cannot prevail, but the enormity of my family’s experiences in a so-called civilized world proves otherwise.

My parents, childhood sweethearts, endured unimaginable cruelties before they miraculously reunited in a displaced persons camp in Landsberg, Germany. 

Enslaved in several concentration camps, my father once secretly fled a “sick barrack” while suffering from typhus. With his brother’s help, he was hidden among ammunition crates to mask his infirmity. That day, the Nazis executed everyone remaining there. He was locked for days in a cattle car rolling toward Dachau – “to work in the heavens,” as a Nazi guard gleefully informed the prisoners – a mission that was thwarted when he was liberated amid hundreds of decomposing corpses.

To escape certain death, my mother jumped from a moving freight train about two miles from Treblinka, shots firing at her from above. The sole survivor of her family, she was incarcerated in Auschwitz-Birkenau, where starvation, abuse and selections were the norm, and where gas chambers and crematoria operated for those deemed unfit.

With the horrors of the Holocaust receding from memory, smoldering hatreds are rekindled. Fearful Jews in France, London and Berlin send their children outdoors stripped of Jewish identifiers, and UCLA undergraduates brazenly grill a judicial board nominee regarding her loyalties, stating “she is a Jewish student and very active in the Jewish community.”

It’s a chilling replay of a shameful past, when flourishing propaganda and violence against Jews were ignored as evil engulfed the world.

Weighing 85 pounds after his rescue, my father found himself in a makeshift hospital lying beside a former inmate. He held my dad’s hand and whispered, “I’m happy to die a free man. Tell the world what happened and to not forget.” He then closed his eyes. My father’s promise to his friend became a lifelong duty that is my legacy.

There must be a collective cry against all forms of anti-Semitism, whether threats from Iran or intimidation in academia. How loudly that resonates will determine our willingness to block another free fall into moral bankruptcy.

Deborah Gastfreund Schuss is a Boston-based journalist.