Today is known throughout the United States as Pearl Harbor Day. December 7, 1941, as U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt famously told a joint session of Congress, is “a date which will live in infamy.” The President, of course, was referring to the tragic bombing of Pearl Harbor, which claimed the lives of more than 2,300 Americans and thrust our country into the front lines of World War II.
What many people do not know is that December 7, 1941 was also the first time that the Jews of Nazi-occupied Poland were herded from their homes in specially equipped trucks that asphyxiated them using the vehicles’ exhaust before their arrival in the forest outside the town of Chelmno. The first victims were 700 Jews from the town of Kolo, the ancestral home of Denver’s Jacobs, Kimel and Rotbart families. These were the first deaths-by-gassing of the Holocaust.