Israel and the Jewish World will mark Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Day (Yom Hashoah) next Monday 24 April. The State opening ceremony will be held at Yad Vashem on Sunday evening. The theme of Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Day 2017 is Restoring Their Identities: The Fate of the Individual During the Holocaust.
72 years after the end of World War II (WW II) we are faced with a sad reality - global ignorance to the bloodiest event of the twentieth century. World War II saw unspeakable horrors: and the deaths of more than 70 million people including 6 million European Jews; gypsies; German aristocrats who didn't agree with the Nazi regime; mentally and physically handicapped people; homosexuals, etc…,. All executed in the name of Arian supremacy.
The annihilation of Jewish communities, and the obliteration of any memory of Jewish life in them, were part of Nazi Germany’s ideology of systematically and comprehensively destroying the Jewish people. In view of their impending certain death, acting in total contradiction to this, the victims inscribed their last words on the walls of the synagogue for posterity. They sought to be remembered.
Every victim was an entire world. Every person carried the story of a past – the legacy of a community, of experiences, of the spirit of a family and of a future brutally cut short. Restoring the victims’ identities by documenting, remembering, researching and educating not only commemorates the world that was lost, but also makes a substantial contribution to shaping a new and better world. Bonding in this way with specific individuals from the Holocaust enables us, in our post-Holocaust generation, to gain meaning that helps shape our own identities and enrich our world.
The passage of time is cruel and the more distant generations are to actual events – the less they know. For most children, WW II is as remote as the Middle Ages.
We often ask, has the world learnt the lessons of the Holocaust in particular, and WWII in general and the answer is sadly – NO. How can one learn a lesson that isn't taught? No matter the objective reasons - this bitter chapter in history is missing, in part or in totality from many educational curriculums worldwide.
Garance Reus-Deelder the Manager of the Anna Frank Museum says . “We find that, with the war being further removed from all of us, but especially for young people and people from outside of Europe, our visitors don’t always have sufficient prior knowledge of the Second World War to really grasp the meaning of Anne Frank and the people in hiding here. We want to make sure that Anne Frank isn’t just an icon, but a portal into history.”
Another sad reality is that within a decade or so Holocaust survivors, WW II survivors and veteran soldiers will no longer be with us to bear witness and testimony. Young people must be encouraged to meet with them and hear what they have to say. Their voices may be frail but we cannot afford to lose a single word they have to say The younger generations should actively take part in projects to commemorate the Holocaust; visit museums, exhibitions and sites. . .
As Jews, it is our duty to make sure that every child, Jew or gentile, know about the Holocaust. It is our duty to make sure that every shred of evidence be documented and preserved. Technology can play an important role, but it must be effective in generating engagement and learning. We must teach them that NEVER AGAIN means tolerance, acceptance of the different, to defend ourselves, never to be silent when faced with injustice.
We must teach them about The Righteous among the Nations and to remember that even in the darkest of hours, there will always be those who are prepared to risk everything to save another's life
Behold, he that keeps Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep (Psalm 121/4).
Please share this letter with your chaverot, family (especially the younger generation), friends, colleagues and social media lists.
President, World WIZO
Photos are taken from Yad Vashem and Anna Frank Museum Websites