Holocaust Remembrance Day is a time to remember and proclaim “NEVER AGAIN.”
As all of Israel stood silent today to remember the victims of the Holocaust, it is fitting to think about World War II and all those who perished under the Nazi dictator, Hitler. They were not all Jews. It is estimated that over six million men, women and children died in the death camps. Memorials can be found around the world. One special one is the children’s memorial, Yad Vashem, in Jerusalem. The day my husband and I visited this memorial, there were little lights on the ceiling and the name of each child was read aloud continuously.
It doesn’t seem like any time since I took Student Ambassadors to Poland and we visited Auschwitz, one of the death camps. None of us will ever be the same. I, as a Christian, walked beside a young Jewish student who laid flowers at the very wall where so many were executed. I noticed that he wore his shorts but respectfully put on a tie and sports jacket as he approached the wall.
As we traveled, this same young man also wanted to find the apartment building where the Israeli Olympic team had been murdered by terrorists. We looked and looked; finally finding a small plaque outside an apartment building to remember the event. Given the gravity of this terrible tragedy, it seemed far too small.
Our student group spent time looking at the ovens where the bodies were burned. One amazing fact was that the home of the military commander and his family was right next to the grounds of Auschwitz. We saw the place where he was executed after the war by hanging. Eye glasses, shoes and suitcases were piled high in glass cases. One could see the torture chambers where a cross was scratched into the wall…indicating that not only Jews were interned there, but political prisoners and Christians.
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. Just as our World War II veterans are passing away by the hundreds each day, so are the survivors of the Holocaust.
Before I retired from teaching, it was my privilege to have the veterans and survivors come to my classroom of 5th graders and talk to each one of the students about their experiences. Because each person’s story was different, the students took notes that they wrote us and presented orally to the class the following day. Those students are adults now. Many have finished college and have families of their own. I pray that they have not forgotten that experience and are passing along what the Holocaust was and why we can never let this happen again. Even virtually, teachers today could have Holocaust survivors speak to the children still studying from home.
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.
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 Vashem 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 Auschwitz-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 on Holocaust Remembrance Day, as the sirens wail, in some places people will stop in the streets and cars will stop on the highways …wherever they are…to remember again. We too must never forget! I hope that you flew an American flag today in front of your house for all the American Jews and their ancestors who have suffered greatly.
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 businessman, Oskar Schindler, who saved many Jews by taking them to work in his factory.
Oskar Schindler (28 April 1908 – 9 October 1974) was a German industrialist and a member of the Nazi Party who is credited with saving the lives of 1,200 Jews during the Holocaust by employing them in his enamelware and ammunitions factories in occupied Poland and the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. (Wikipedia)
VIDEO: Turn up your sound. This music is played in honor of John Williams and his contribution to the telling of this story of the Holocaust and the saving of many lives.
The Music from Schindler’s List, written by John Williams.