There is no answer to Auschwitz,
No answer to hatred, brutality and murder
There is no answer; only questions
Why did so many innocents die?
Out of the ashes of death and destruction
Out of the flames that engulfed us
Came the survivors
Whose eyes have seen the horrors,
Whose ears have heard the screams.
They tried to silence us, But our voices are still heard,
They tried to destroy us
The chain has not been broken.
I try never to miss this and have been so busy that it flew past me without my realization until now. Yesterday was Yom Hashoah, also known as Holocaust Remembrance Day, which is something that’s always been personally affecting to me, as someone whose ancestors were killed by the Nazis, as someone who faced brutal anti-Semitism in high-school, as someone whose grandfather bravely piloted bombers over Germany, and as someone who has been privileged enough to consider a survivor of Auschwitz a friend and mentor (as he helped me with an extensive project I did on the subject in the 10th grade). My friend, Mike Jacobs, is a kind, surprisingly soft spoken man considering the horrors he lived through. He established the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Dallas and has a way with his words that tend to stay with everyone who ever gets to meet him. And because he is a friend of my father’s, I’m uniquely fortunate to have gotten to know him personally, to break challah with him at Shabbos and sit in his living room with his adorable Texan wife and hear his stories personally. I remember how sweetly he took a tissue and wiped tears from my face while telling me about watching entire families being gunned down in front of him, including his own, on Rosh Hashanah in 1939. I’ve held a phial of Zyklon B in my hand. I’ve seen the boxcar they packed them into like sardines, where some of them died from heat exhaustion alone. I’ve seen the tiny children’s shoes, left behind for those little ones who never stepped into the future. And yet he survived to carry the story for those whose voices were cut short, and is always open, always willing to learn more, always willing to give of us heart to those around him. He and my grandfather, whose stories of the war were always filled with sadness for what he had to do, along with enduring pride for his country, are two of the most incredible men I’ve ever had the opportunity to know, and I’m thankful for that.
Of the estimated 11 million people who were killed at the hands of Nazis, 6 million were Jews, slaughtered for no reason beyond their ethnicity. 2 out of every 3 Jews in Europe died during the Nazi reign. If someone were to say each name of the six million aloud, one every second, without stopping, it would take 69 days, 10 hours, and 40 minutes. Over two months. If my great-grandfather hadn’t come to Ellis Island a couple of decades previous to Hitler taking power in Germany, I wouldn’t be here. And as I mentioned, my family had members who were killed in the gas chambers of Europe. I’ve held the hands of a survivor and seen the numbers tattooed forever on his forearm, and I’ve been awed and humbled by how inspiring that manages to be. The 5 million other people were of various groups seen as “unworthy” by the Nazis: many of them Poles, Romanians, Gypsies, Muslims, homosexuals, the sick or infirm, the disabled, the homeless. If one did not fit into the perfect mold that the Nazis saw as the “Aryan race” (the strong, fair haired, blue eyed Germans), then it was likely they would eventually have been murdered. If the camps hadn’t been liberated, if the Allies hadn’t won the war, there are many of us who would not be alive for one reason or another.
More than anything, this isn’t simply a matter of remembering the Holocaust and the millions of lives that were lost. It’s also a time to remember that we are all human beings, all valuable, individual people, regardless of race, creed, social background, religion, gender, orientation, or political boundaries. Hatred and prejudice only breed more hatred and prejudice, and none of us have the right to pass judgment over someone else based on some ridiculous external quality. There’s enough bullying, there’s enough terror and hatred spread by monsters outside our control. And yes, in my opinion, the monsters deserve to be slain - but if we continue to attack each other, to belittle and hurt one another, with or without those much larger monsters, then, somehow, they always win. The world is becoming increasingly globalized, but with that needs to come a sense of tolerance, and even a sense of solidarity. We’re all in this world, this fight, this quest for love and meaning and light and humanity, together.
And I would also be remiss not to mention that today (April 20) is the 13th Anniversary of the Columbine massacre. Growing up in Colorado, that event always emotionally impacted me greatly, as well. May the families of the victims continue to find peace.
"Let it be an act of remembrance, for that is what the victims wanted - to be remembered, at least to be remembered." ~ Elie Wiesel
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- rosainverno said: I wish I had words, but I don’t. Thank you for expressing them, darling. Your thought is beyond true.
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