Holocaust Remembrance Day…A Grave- Digger makes a Difference
Today, Sunday, April 14. 2013 begins Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day . It doesn’t seem like any time since I took Student Ambassadors to Poland and we visited Auschwitz. None of us will ever be the same.
Steven Spielberg has made it his mission to record the lives of survivors so that future generations will understand what hatred, prejudice and war can do to people.Once the people who fought WWII and the Holocaust survivors have died, their voices will be silenced forever….except for these recordings.
In this same group of Student Ambassadors, there was one young Jewish man who wanted to find the apartment building where the Israeli Olympic team had been murdered. We looked and looked; finally finding a small plaque to remembered the event. Given the gravity of this terrible tragedy, it seemed far too small. This was the same young man who had impressed me with his sincerity and dedication to the memory of over 6,000 Jews and some Christians, who lost their lives in concentration camps, death marches and more during World War II. Gently he laid a wreath of flowers in the spot at the base of a wall where hundreds had been shot in this one concentration camp called Auschwitz.
After returning from that trip, I felt that the students in our Florida county needed to know as much about the Holocaust as possible. With financial help from the community and parents of students, we raised enough funds to place in every school library tapes, books and age-appropriate material about the Holocaust.
Recently I read about a grave-digger who was told to bury all the Jews in the woods. These were those shot on a death march. Instead, he buried them in St. Anna’s Roman Catholic Church in Swierklany, Poland. This is only after he had carefully copied all the numbers from each victim’s arm. Some seventy years later and with research from Yad Vasham in Israel, some relatives now know that Christians carefully buried the bodies of their loved ones. A new memorial has been erected with a cross. The new plaque at the previously unmarked grave in Swierlany, Poland now reads: “In memory of the death march victims from Aushwitz-Birkenau,” and lists the victims concentration camp numbers or names. ‘ The caring of one grave digging man, who believed differently from those he buried, made all the difference over 70 years later to a family who simply wanted to know what had happened to their loved one.
Today as the sirens wail, they stop in the streets and cars stop on the highways …wherever they are…to remember again. We too must never forget!
If you have not seen Auschwitz in Poland, the film below gives a walk-through with Rick Steves of what is left and what visitors can see today. It is not our purpose here to try to re-create the horrors that went on here. Probably the closest to that would be to watch Schindler’s List, produced by Spielberg, about a Christian man who saved many Jews by taking them to work in his factory.