yahrzeit candleBaila 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:

9 thoughts on “Remembering

  • I have also psted about Yom HaShoah today. You should try and read Hélène Berr’s diary when it is is released in English. (I have also posted about it, sorry I seem to do my self-promotion a lot these days!)

  • Oh, and your ninth grade Hebrew teacher was likely a child of chalutzim who came to Israel way before Hitler came to Germany. They really did have a hard time understanding how the Holocaust could happen.

  • Leora, the wording is fine.
    I’ve edited today’s post so as to include yours.
    I’ll try to answer your question on French Jews. The majority of religious Jews are of Sephardic descent, mostly Moroccan – the other communities being less religious. Chabad is quite strong but attracts Algerian and Tunisian Jews whose families are quite secular as well as Askenazic Jews.
    Having said that, there are some religious Jews of Ashkenazic origin in the Orthodox community. There are also some people of both origins who are hardly religious (they don’t keep kosher and work on the Shabbat) but attend Orthodox synagogues for religious purposes such as weddings and burials.
    To conclude on a vast subject, a number of Ashkenazi are affiliated with the Reform or Masorti communities. Don’t hesitate to ask if you have more questions.

  • Baila, she may have descended from German Jews who came in the twenties or thirties, I don’t really know. I guess the point is that Israeli children raised in the fifties were taught “the Jews went like sheep.” And my pleasure to include your link! It was well-written.

    Thanks, Ilana-Davita, for a glimpse at modern day French Jewry.

  • Daniel, thanks for adding important insights.

    Your Walter Laqueur quote was especially meaningful to me, as I am descended both from religious and non-religious Jews. As my mother used to point out, the Nazis killed both, with disregard for political or religious beliefs.

    >But Jews did not seek to take vengeance. That is something you leave to G-d.
    I’ve read that some would like any talk of vengeance taken out of t’filla. Sounds like Rabbi Sacks says it is OK to ask for vengeance, if one assumes it is really left to God?

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