Remembering Yom HaShoah
Yom HaShoah, this year on April 12, is the official day to remember the Holocaust and mourn the 6 million holy souls who were so brutally murdered by the people of Europe.
Between 1939 and 1945, 6 million innocent people who were born to Jewish parents were killed. We remember these martyrs, who never had a burial, who don’t have a grave. Their graves are in heaven and in our hearts.
There is a saying that time heals everything. Today, many years after liberation, our loss still hurts. It’s like a cancer; it never heals.
We, the survivors, think the history of the Holocaust should not die with us, but its legacy should be preserved and remembered. We, the last witnesses to the Holocaust, are worried how our tragedy will be remembered in history.
We just finished the holiday of Passover. Jewish families around the world gathered together around the seder table to read from the Haggadah and retell the history of how the king of Egypt enslaved the Jewish people.
The Jewish people have had many tragedies throughout our history. But in terms of tragedy, the Holocaust has no equal. No matter how talented a person may be with words, there are not enough words fit to explain what happened to the Jewish people of Europe in the years 1939-1945.
Our generation had a pharaoh, a Haman; his name was Hitler. The Nazi government and its people forced us out of our homes and put us in ghettoes. If they would have treated animals like we were treated in the ghettoes, they would certainly be in jail.
Then the Nazi governments of Europe packed us into freight trains like sardines. Those who were sitting did not have room to stand. Those who were standing did not have room to sit. The doors were locked and sealed, and we traveled three days and nights. No food was given to us. No water was given to us.
When we got off those trains, we did not know where we were. We did not know why we were there. We came to a tall gate; on top was written Arbeit Macht Frei, “Work will make you free.”
Please visualize this with me. The people who stood at this gate had just come from the ghetto. We had not slept in a bed. We had not had a hot meal, many times not even a cold meal.
We had babies with us. In those days, there were no disposable diapers, no baby formula, no baby food in jars. Those babies were sick, miserable and hungry. They had no cribs in which to sleep. They hadn’t bathed in six weeks. This picture is still in front of me after all these years.
As we know, not many people escaped from Auschwitz and lived to tell the story after liberation. I know of only one young man, Rabbi Michael Dov Weissmandel, who managed to escape from the train headed to Auschwitz. He got to England, to the headquarters of the Allied forces in London.
He told them that tens of thousands of Jewish people were being murdered in gas chambers daily and then burned to ashes in crematoriums. He told them those people were being brought to Auschwitz by train. He asked them to please drop some bombs on the railroad tracks that led to Auschwitz or on the bridges that led to Auschwitz. Bomb the gas chambers and the crematoria from the air; he said; “They are sharply visible! More than 90 percent of those in Auschwitz are brought by rail day and night, and until they fix the tracks and bridges, tens of thousands of Jews could be saved,”
The Allied personnel officer told the rabbi there were people in the buildings and those people would be killed.
“But you can save thousands of lives by destroying the railroad tracks, the bridges, the gas chambers and the crematoria!” the rabbi said.
Not one bomb was dropped. Six million of our people were murdered.
As a Holocaust survivor, I believe if we had a Jewish state before World War II, we would not have had a Holocaust, for sure, not 6 million martyrs. The Israeli Armed Forces, the pilots, would have bombed the railroad tracks leading to Auschwitz, Majdenek and Buna. They would have bombed the bridges, the gas chambers and the crematoria before they started to operate.
Saturday was the last day of Passover and we said the Yizkor prayer with broken hearts and lots of memories. We say prayers and remember the martyrs, our parents, the 1.5 million children killed in gas chambers and burned in crematoria.
We also remember those who survived and have since died. They were our husbands, wives, our children … and we remember all those people who got killed in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.
As we know, souls never die. All 6 million are in heaven, and on a day of remembrance, they come in search of their fathers and mothers. They come down here with the Father, the God of the Jewish children, crying of the destruction of 6 million Jews.
They tell us, the living, “Do not forget us. You be the guardians of our Jewish memory, of our values and hopes. Protect and safeguard the state of Israel for which we hoped and prayed and which we did not live long enough to see.”
Michael Weiss, a Holocaust survivor, is a speaker at the Holocaust Memorial Center in Farmington and author of the book Chimneys and Chambers.