A dull yellow has crept in at the edges of my father’s birth certificate. The words, written in German, have faded to a dull gray. A swastika rests in the top center of the document like a tattoo on a jaundiced corpse. It’s a nasty yet necessary little reminder to me that no one goes untouched by evil.

It’s difficult for me to grasp my grandfather as a POW in a German prison or my father as a child in Nazi Germany, but that little slip of paper slaps me in the face, whispering that my existence was in danger long before I was born.

UCSB received its own chilling reminder of the Holocaust on Monday as the names of those who died in the holocaust echoed through Storke Plaza.

If you stopped and listened, you understand their hypnotizing quality. They form a quiet unease with the world deep in your gut. When someone’s last name begins to repeat, that nasty little knot you feel explodes as you realize entire families were wiped out.

Eleven million gone, along with all the things they had to offer the world.

As the last of those who survived live out the twilight of their years, the source of all our first-hand knowledge deteriorates. The stories of those who died will be reduced to facts in history texts read only for classes.

This is why it is important to take advantage of these stories when they’re offered to us. The past is never through with us until it’s damn good and ready, so it’s better to be aware of it before it comes back and slaps us in the face.

The Holocaust is an example of the darker side of human nature and how easy it is for that venomous black sludge to slither out of our hearts and direct our actions. It happened in Russia. It happened in Cambodia. It can happen again.

And it’s not just the stories of those who’ve suffered through these great evils that we should pay attention to. The experiences of a survivor of a sexual assault or a hate crime also serve as much needed reminders for those of us whose lives have been unaffected directly by any great tragedy. If we don’t take the time to stop and reflect, we will forget the lessons they carry.

Complacency and willful ignorance breed the dangers seen in the past.

Humans are forever doomed to repeat their gross tragedies – it’s in our flawed nature. All that we can do is prevent these injustices whenever possible and contain the ones we can’t.

When the ghosts of the past surface – be it through voices echoing across the campus or rape survivors telling their stories – seize them. Hold them in your memory for as long as you can stand, because apathy originates those horrors you choose to forget.

Make a conscious effort to remind yourself that destruction and desolation still exist in the world, otherwise you’ll be inviting the blood of the future on your hands.

Steven Ruszczycky is the Daily Nexus Assistant Opinion editor. His column appears Tuesdays.