Baila reminded me that tonight is Yom HaShoa V’Hagvrua, the Day for Remembering the Holocaust and the Strength. “The Strength” is about the fact that the Jews did respond to their enemies, both physically and spiritually, unlike how my 9th grade Israeli-born Hebrew teacher told us that “they went like sheep.” Balashon explains the difference between the English term ‘Holocaust’ and the preferable Hebrew ‘Shoa’.
Personally, I like to recall the humanity of the annihilated European Jews. See, for example, the Jews of Warsaw in this charming video from 1939 (Hat tip: A Simple Jew). Many smiling faces, unaware of the upcoming danger. This was not the experience of the Jews in Germany, where my mother-in-law lived until 1938. That’s why more Jews from Germany were able to escape, because they lived under Hitler, they knew how bad it was, and if they could get out, they often did. One of the reasons I read Aharon Appelfeld is his lively, engaging characters do not yet face the worst of the Holocaust in his novels, but one feels the encroaching doom. Appelfeld’s theme is the assimilated Jew of pre-Holocaust Europe, who mistakenly believed that assimilation and the shedding of Judaism would equal salvation. I recently read much of The Seventh Well, by Fred Wander, an excellent book by a survivor who retells the stories of many Holocaust victims right before the victims’ deaths. I couldn’t finish the book because it was too upsetting. But maybe you have more of a stomach for reading about mistreated, dying humans in concentration camps.
Batya recalls never having been taught as a child about the Holocaust. No easy answers here, as I recall being terrified of taking a shower as a 4th grader after learning of Auschwitz. And it was scary to learn that my 4th grade Hebrew teacher had lost a sibling she had never known in the Holocaust.
Lion of Zion brings up diversity within the Jewish community as how to remember the Holocaust: Is the Moment of Silence Really “Goyish”?. I will end with questions: Can some diversity be healthy? Or is this just one more sign of how irreconcilable Jewish groups have become? (On this same topic: a video of a Charedi man hurrying home…)
Update: Since there are numerous commemorative posts coming in, I am going to link some here:
- Ilana-Davita: From a cemetery in her home town in France
- Lion in Zion: My Grandmother’s Holocaust
- A Mother in Israel: One family’s story
- ImaBima: How Many is 6 Million
- Daniel Saunders: Some Readings for Yom HaShoa
- Elinka: Fiction and non-fiction about the Holocaust
- SuperRaizy: From Auschwitz to the IAF (must read; very touching, personal)
- Prof K: My Parents were Camp Survivors (also very personal)
- Rubicon3: Ani Ma’amin