In the Jewish calendar, we Jewish people have many national days when we remember our past and retell our tragedies. On Passover, we remember when the Pharaoh enslaved the Jewish people and made them build cities and the pyramids thousands of years ago. They are still standing. The Jewish slaves were the first slaves in history.
Now we are in the Jewish month of Av, and on the ninth day of the month, what we call Tisha b’Av, we remember the tragedy and mourn the destruction of both our holy temples. The first and second temples were burned and destroyed together with our holy objects. Thousands of men, women and children were murdered just because they were Jews.
We were driven out from our whole country, Israel; we were driven out of the holy city of Jerusalem, which God gave to our forefathers Abraham, Isaac, Jacob … to His children. This was about 3,000 years ago.
In this century, we have another tragedy to remember. I am referring to what the world calls the Holocaust.
Let’s summarize what happened during the terrible years of the Holocaust. We, the Jewish people who lived in Europe for 800-900 years, obeyed the laws in whatever country we lived in. The Nazi German government, with its people, took us out of our homes, put us into ghettoes, then into concentration camps like Auschwitz, Majdanek, Buna and many others, which were equipped with gas chambers where they murdered our families, our people. Those camps had crematoria where they burned millions of Jews — including children.
All that was left of European Jewish life were ashes and cemeteries. Every inch of ground in Europe is cursed because it is soaked in Jewish blood. Every silent barrack in the hundreds of concentration camps over Europe is crying with pain of its victims. The wind blowing over Europe will forever carry the smoke and ashes of the 6 million innocent people and 1.5 million children who were murdered by the Nazis.
More than 70 years after the Shoah, our ears still hear the cries from the gas chambers. Our noses can still smell the stench from the crematoria. During the Holocaust years, most of the countries in Europe betrayed our people. Many countries helped in the murder of 6 million of our people. Even western countries closed their borders.
We survivors remember the righteous gentiles forever. They put their lives and the lives of their families in jeopardy to hide and save Jewish lives. There was Oscar Schindler, who saved 1,200 Jewish lives and Raoul Wallenberg, a Swedish diplomat who finished college at the University of Michigan, who saved tens of thousands of Jews.
But 70 years after liberation, for us survivors, the tragedy of the Holocaust is not just a part of history; it is a wound, a cancer in our neshamot (souls) that continues to hurt … it will never heal.
We all agree that everybody dies sometime, but God forbid if a father or mother or a family member dies, there is a levayah (funeral) and a kaver (grave), but our six million tzadikim, (innocent family members) never had a funeral or a grave.
We survivors put down a memorial stone with the names of our parents and family members in Hebrew Memorial Park. We Jews believe the soul never dies and they have a resting place. This will be their resting place.
Michael Weiss Special to the Jewish News