April 29: Readers reflect on Holocaust Remembrance Day

As the Jewish People, we need to ask ourselves how are we going to go about preventing another Holocaust from occurring.

Letters 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/Handout )
Letters 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Handout )
Sir, – When I think about the Holocaust, the first question that comes to mind is how could God have made His children suffer so much? I do not have an answer and I don’t know if it is possible to answer this question properly. However, I would like to discuss the second question that comes to mind: How could humanity have been so cruel? How could the whole world watch millions of Jews be tortured to the point where many would rather commit suicide than live? Neighbors who feigned being good friends were the first to turn us in when Hitler passed his decree. The mailman who greeted us everyday with a smile was the one who killed our infants in the street.
The cleaning lady who came to do our laundry every day was the one who came to our house and took away our clothing, knowing we would be relegated to standing in the freezing cold for hours without anything to provide warmth.
I think it’s time we realized that the world we live in is full of hatred and terror.
Based of this analysis, the question one should ask himself is: What is the point of remembering all the horrific things that took place? I think the answer to this question is that we aren’t supposed to solely remember the past. We are supposed to remember the past in how it pertains to the future.
As the Jewish People, we need to ask ourselves how are we going to go about preventing another Holocaust from occurring. Is it by being strong as a community? Is it by increasing our prayer? What was the cause of the Holocaust and how do we insure for ourselves that those horrible ingredients never mix again? The point of Holocaust Remembrance Day is not only to remember all the innocent people who were killed, but to make sure that those people didn’t die for nothing. They died fighting say one last blessing. They died fighting to give their child one last kiss.
And, most importantly, they died knowing that they were dying for God. We have to remember not just the evil the Nazis did to us, but the courage and willingness that Jews had in order to serve Him.
Holocaust survivors today are the people I learn from the most. My grandfather, Mory Friedman, is himself a survivor, and he’s told me about all the horrific things he went through, things I couldn’t begin to imagine going through myself. How he is able to maintain both a deep and sincere connection to God and the love and care he has for his family after going through so much pain is mind-boggling.
How can someone who was tortured so much still have a love for life? I think the answer to this question is that my grandfather had a future. He didn’t think only about the cruel times he had in his life, but, just as importantly, about how he could have a better future.
The point of Holocaust Remembrance Day is not just to dwell on the past but to come as a Jewish People and try to improve the future.
We will never forget the martyrs of the Holocaust, but don’t you think it’s time to improve the future?
Sir, – The Holocaust offers us numbers of victims and levels of suffering that are just too great and terrible to fathom.
How can one truly appreciate the staggering figure of six million? How can one imagine people being herded wholesale into gas chambers, or a child being dragged from his mother’s arms, or an old man being forced to his knees to clean the streets before laughing soldiers and even neighbors? In what way can we who live comfortable lives in freedom and peace appreciate the dread that crept over an entire continent of our co-religionists, rising eventually to devour them, their families, their friends and their communities? It is simply too much, and it wasn’t until I was an adult and overheard a short conversation that the essence of the Holocaust finally sank in.
I was visiting in a hotel room with a couple I knew from the States who had come on one of their frequent trips to Israel.
They were both survivors, having grown up in the part of eastern Poland that became Belarus after the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact of August 1939.
There was a knock at the door, and the woman, who had brought along her sister on this trip, rose to open it.
She found an older couple who also had come to see them. They greeted each other with warmth and joy while still in the hotel hallway. The woman then ushered them in and, with wide eyes and a wider smile, took them over to her sister, who was sitting in an armchair at the side of the room.
“Do you remember them?” she asked her sister, as if presenting a couple they had known from the old neighborhood.
“They lived in the cave down the hill from us in the forest!” I felt a shiver go through me from head to toe. That shiver was my first real comprehension of what the Holocaust was, yet I still can’t say that I can comprehend any of it.
Sir, – The following was told to me by a Holocaust survivor.
During the Yom Kippur War, not only were men called up for service, but vehicles were enlisted, too. Very often the owner of the truck would volunteer to drive the vehicle for the duration in order to take care of it. So at the age of 33, I had a driver who could have been my grandpa.
On one trip this man related to me that during the Holocaust his entire family had been killed and he had escaped to the forest. In a miraculous manner, he survived. At the very end of this truly emotional story he asked me the following question: “Did you ever wonder why God created all those strange animals, insects and bugs that inhabit the forest?” His answer: “So that when little boys hide in the woods they have friends and playmates.”
Sir, – Jewish-Hungarian Auschwitz survivor Elizabeth Semesh, in an interview with The Jerusalem Post, tells us how rampant anti-Semitism is in Hungary and how it seems to be getting worse (“Thousands of Hungarians march in Budapest on 70th anniversary of mass deportation,” April 28).
Then she says her son and daughter “are married to Christians so now my family is safe.”
How shocking to read that naive statement – and from an Auschwitz-Birkenau survivor no less! This was the unfortunate sentiment of many assimilated Hungarian Jews prior to and during World War II, when they sincerely believed that because they were assimilated Jews or had converted to Christianity they were safe from Hitler’s killing machine. They spent much of the war in a state of “ignorance is bliss” while their Jewish brethren were being massacred all around them. In 1944, reality caught up to them and they finally realized that a Jew is a Jew.
Despite the newest generation of anti-Semites, many European (and North American!) Jews cannot fathom another Holocaust and have no idea how to combat the rising hatred. Perhaps Ms. Semesh has the right idea – marry your children off to Christians and soon there won’t be any Jews left to hate!
Sir, – The siren wails. We are called upon not only to remember, but to wake up! Not to be mired in the memories of the past, but to take action to be sure – never again!