Yom Kippur is the holiest holiday in the Jewish calendar. Especially this year, when Yom Kippur is on Saturday. We go the synagogue to pray. Men dress in a white kittel (linen burial robe) as a sign of purity and a reminder of mortality. On Yom Kippur, we ask God to forgive the sins we committed during the year.
I remember my father, God bless his soul, when he kept the yahrtzeit for his father, who was killed in the first World War. He lit one yahrtzeit candle. Now, I keep yahrtzeit for six million martyrs killed during the Holocaust. I always debate with myself how many candles do I have to light for six million martyrs.
Over 70 years ago, I was liberated from Buchenwald by the American Army led by General Patton. Three-thousand years ago, God sent Moses and his brother Aaron to take his children out of Egypt from slavery. In May 1945, God sent the American Army (the Allied Army) to take his children out of Europe’s death camps. If our liberators would have arrived seven or eight months later, not one of us would have survived because all of us were very sick, dead people walking … skin and bone.
In General Patton’s unit, there was a Jewish chaplain named Rabbi Schechter. In our thoughts, he was an angel sent from God to pray with us … He cried with us … sang with us … danced with us. Yes, it was over 70 years ago we were liberated from the premeditated murder camps, but this liberation was too late for six million martyrs. It came too late for our parents, our families. It came too late for our 1.5 million children.
I always say the bad people did it; but my question is: What were the good people doing (including the Western countries)? Maybe some of us could have escaped, but the borders were closed to us in America, in England and in Palestine. During the Holocaust years, most European countries betrayed our people. Quite a few of them were active participants in the murder of six million martyrs. All that is left of Jewish life in Europe is ashes soaked in Jewish blood and Jewish cemeteries.
But, if we examine what happened after our liberation, after the Shoah, we’ll forever dominate Jewish history by the miracle, by the fantastic transition of misery and suffering to new heights of pride.
The emergence of the State of Israel is God’s answer to the German design of Jewish extinction (God forbid). Within a short time after the big disaster, we, the Jewish people, established our own country, what God gave thousands of years ago to the Jewish people. There is a definite connection coming from Auschwitz, Bergen-Belsen and Majdanek to Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Israel, to our own God-given country.
As the years pass, memories fade and our survivor numbers continue to decline. It is of the utmost importance that the world never forgets. To remember, we urge the entire Jewish community to attend an important and inspirational event at 1 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 1, at the Hebrew Memorial Park Cemetery at Gratiot and 14 Mile Road in Clinton Township. It’s the Holocaust Yizkor Service of the United Jewish Organization of First, Second and Third Generation of Holocaust Survivors.
I wish the entire community a happy and blessed new year. May God inscribe each and every one of us in the Book of Life.
And, please, remember to light a yahrtzeit candle in memory of the six million martyrs. May this kindness be a source of merit for you and your family.
Michael Weiss, a Holocaust survivor, is a speaker at the Holocaust Memorial Center, Farmington, and author of the book Chimneys and Chambers.