Friday, April 29, 2011

Yom HaShoah: 10 good reasons to never forget

It's Friday, time yet again for another posting of Interesting Jewish Stories & Facts. Today I offer a few reasons why we need recall the horrors of the past.

It’s been over six decades since the monstrous work of the Nazis was fully revealed to the World. The bleak days of World War II are a fading memory for many, but the Jewish community continues to recall and honor the six million Jews lost in the Holocaust.

One special day, Yom HaShoah, has been set aside to honor the dead, the survivors, the martyrs and heroes. It will be observed here in the Land of Cotton on Sunday with several community-sponsored programs. Here are 10 reasons why you might want to attend one of the observances or, at the very least, spend a few moments in quiet reflection.

1. To honor the 6 million
To remember the 5 million non-Jewish victims
3. To mourn the 1.5 million Jewish children murdered
4. To recall the 5,000 Jewish communities wiped out across Eastern Europe
5. To offer thanks for the 304,500 Jews who managed to emigrate from Germany before it was too late to escape
6. To salute the citizens of Denmark who managed to ferry 7,800 Jews to safety In Sweden
7. To praise the 22,211 people and groups considered “Righteous among the Nations,” the term used by the State of Israel to describe non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews from extermination
8. To take note of the 1,668 synagogues – virtually every shul in Germany – destroyed or damaged on Kristallnacht
9. To marvel at the grit and determination of the 250,000 Jews housed in Displaced Person camps across Europe following the war
10. To applaud the bravery of the 30,000 Jews who managed to join partisan groups across Eastern Europe to battle the invading Nazis


Several years ago I visited Yad Vashem, Israel’s world-class Holocaust museum in Jerusalem. Moments after walking through the children’s memorial there, a profoundly moving experience that recalls the 1.5 million youngsters murdered by the Nazis and their collaborators, I stumbled onto a group of Israeli soldiers.

They had just exited the memorial also. Inexplicably, they were joking around, laughing and chatting. I found myself getting angry. But after a moment’s reflection, it seemed to me there was something redemptive about the scene and the young soldiers’ behavior.

In a fashion I still find difficult to articulate, the young Israelis seemed part of a chain, one additional link that includes the horror of the Holocaust and establishment of the State of Israel, ancient wars and prophesies, the patriarchs and cosmic promises.

Just a few decades earlier, the fabric of the Jewish community seemed in shreds, six million Jews slaughtered across Eastern Europe, millions more homeless and wandering about in search of a place to call home. All of that has changed and the laughing soldiers, it seemed to me, were the Jewish people’s victory and future, and I realized I felt comfort in their presence.

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