Today is Holocaust Remembrance Today. Today is the day that remember the millions of innocent souls who were murdered because they did not fit in with the Nazi ideal.
This day is particularly personal for me. I am an Ashkenazi (Eastern European) Jew. Though my family has been in America for more than a century, they lived for many generations in Eastern Europe before immigrating to America in the early 20th century.
My mother’s grandparents came from Dobromil, a shtetl that in their time was in Poland. Today it is in the Ukraine.
My mother’s maternal grandmother, Ida Miller (née Lowenthal), came to this country with her then entire immediate family when she was a child. My mother’s maternal grandfather, Saul Miller, came to this country as a young man by himself. His widowed father, his siblings, their spouses and their children are among the martyred six million.
While we mourn the loss of millions of innocent lives, we are reminded every day that the Holocaust is not just another historical event. The sentiments and forces that led to the Holocaust have not disappeared into the ashes of history and under the cries of “Never Again”. Antisemitism is once again on the rise. A poll of 2000 people in the UK has revealed that one out of every five respondents believe that the Holocaust never happened and one in twelve respondents believe that the number of victims in inaccurate.
We need to keep telling the stories of the survivors and the victims. We need to keep saying never again so that one day, never again will truly mean never again.
Today is Yom Hashoah.
Today we say never again. Today we remember the millions of people, both Jewish and non-Jewish, who were murdered by the Nazis and the collaborators simply for being who they were.
The problem is that while we say never again, ethnic genocide is still happening across the world.
The Rohingya Muslims are a minority from Myanmar. Since last summer, nearly 700,000 Rohingya Muslim refugees escaped to Bangladesh. They were the lucky ones. Countless others were murdered for no other reason that being born a Rohingya Muslim.
It’s no secret that the war in Syria is responsible for the deaths of many innocent people. The gas attack last week in Douma left around 100 dead. The survivors, mostly women and children, scrambled to the local hospital to remove the chemicals from their bodies.
It’s 2018. I would have hoped that by now, we would have learned our lesson. We would have stood up to dictators and despots before they killed their own people. We would have stopped ethnic cleansing before it began.
I guess that our lesson has yet to be learned.
Today is Holocaust Remembrance Day. Today, we remember the millions of victims were killed simply for who they were.
I count myself among the lucky ones. My family has been in this country for more than a century. My great grandparents left Europe in the early 20th century, looking for a better life for themselves and their families in America. My grandparents were born in this country, I am a third generation Jewish American. But that does not exempt me from The Holocaust. Most of the family that my great grandparents left behind were slaughtered.
In the late 1970’s, one of my mother’s uncles added his grandfather, my great-great grandfather to the list of Holocaust victims at Yad Vashem.
While I will go about my business today, my heart will be breaking a little.
May the memory of those killed be a blessing and a reminder of what happens when we forget that the person next to us is first and foremost just another human being.
The Holocaust, like all massacres of an ethnic or religious minority did not start off with concentration camps and gas chambers. It started with words. It started with the dehumanization of Jews and other minorities. That led to political and social disenfranchisement, which directly led to the concentration camps and gas chambers.
After World War II, the common phrase was “never again”. Never again will we stand by as our fellow human beings are slaughtered simply for being who they are. Never again will we let a government openly persecute and slaughter our fellow citizens because they belong to a different faith or their heritage is different from ours.
Never again has become a hollow statement that often used, but rarely acted upon.
In Myanmar, the Rohingya Muslim minority is being massacred en masse by the government. Their only crime, like all of victims of ethnic cleansing, was being who they are.
Perhaps instead of never again, we should simply say again, because ethnic cleansing has happened multiple times since 1945 and we simply continue not to care.
Today is Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Today we remember the 6 million Jewish souls whose lives were taken simply because they were Jewish.
There are so many angles that I can use to approach this post.
Today I want to talk about the possibilities that were lost.
The six million that were murdered, the possibilities of their lives were endless. But we will never know what directions their lives could have taken.
Especially the children. 1.5 million Jewish children were killed at the hands of the Nazis and their collaborators. An entire generation was lost before they truly had the chance the live. The children who did survive and grow to adulthood were forever changed. Imagine what these children who were murdered might have accomplished as adults. Imagine what their children and grandchildren and perhaps great-grandchildren would have accomplished as adults. But we will never know.
Every year, we say never again. But sometimes it feels hollow, just another statement without action to back it up, especially considering that antisemitism is one more rearing its ugly head.
I’m going to say it again and perhaps it will stick with one person. I hope that is not too much to ask for.
May the memories of those murdered be a blessing to all of us, so we can remember how inhumane we can be to our fellow human being.
Filed under History, Music
The last survivor of Treblinka passed away on Friday.
Samuel Willenberg died at the age of 93.
A member of the “organizing committee”, Mr. Willenberg was part of the revolt by the prisoners in Treblinka.
It’s been 71 years since the end of World War II. The number of survivors still living is dwindling fast.
We are the last generation to hear the testimony of the survivors in person.
When we speak of the Holocaust, we say Never Again.
There are many in this world who question why we continue to speak of the Holocaust.
The reason we continue to say Never Again and repeat the testimony of the survivors is that I hope that one day, the phrase Never Again is unnecessary.
But the world we live in and history of our species is littered with stories of hatred, destruction and murder based on the external factors that were used as an excuse to kill innocent human beings en masse 71 years ago.
RIP Mr. Willenberg, may you be reunited with those who you lost all of those years ago.
May your memory be a blessing not just to those who knew you personally, but to the rest of us rely on you and your generation to remind us of the best and word of humanity.
Tomorrow, January 27th, is the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.
While I do not want to talk about Auschwitz directly, what I want to talk about in this post the hatred that poisons hearts and minds and leads to the creation of places such as Auschwitz.
I am going to feature two movies, where the theme is antisemitism.
In School Ties (1992), David Green (Brendan Fraser) is the new boy in school and the new star of the football team. In order to survive, he has to hide his Jewish faith from his classmates. When a jealous, bigoted classmate accuses David of cheating and his faith is revealed, he must make a hard choice.
Forty five years earlier, Gentleman’s Agreement (1947) was released in movie theaters. Philip Green (Gregory Peck) is a reporter who takes on the assignment of investigating antisemitism. To fully understand the subject, he goes undercover as a Jew and will soon discover the hatred that he did not expect.
Both of these movies made and continue to make audiences squirm. As far as I am concerned, that is a good thing. Being uncomfortable leads to dialogue, dialogue leads to questions, questions lead to open conversation and open conversation leads to understanding.
Today marks the 69th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.
I write this post 69 years after the end of war, in America, far from the Europe that again slaughtered it’s Jews because they were Jews.
I am the descendant of Eastern European Jewish immigrants, who saw their future and the future of their family in America. Without their decision to leave Europe, I would not be sitting here today. I am also related, through my great-grandparents to their relations who stayed in Europe and were part of the martyred Six Million.
These people were no different than you or I.
To borrow from William Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice
“I am a Jew. Hath
not a Jew eyes? hath not a Jew hands, organs,
dimensions, senses, affections, passions? fed with
the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject
to the same diseases, healed by the same means,
warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer, as
a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed?
if you tickle us, do we not laugh? if you poison
us, do we not die? and if you wrong us, shall we not
revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we will
resemble you in that. If a Jew wrong a Christian,
what is his humility? Revenge. If a Christian
wrong a Jew, what should his sufferance be by
Never Forget. Never Again