Standing not silent – Yom HaShoah

“The civilized world stands revolted by a bloody pogrom against a defenseless people. Every instinct in us cries out in protest against the outrages which have taken place in Germany during the last five years and which sank to new depths in the organized frenzies of the last few days. . . . If you saw a gang of cowardly ruffians set upon a helpless man in a public street and proceed to beat him, you wouldn’t long remain silent. If you saw a fanatical mob pillage and burn a church or a synagogue you wouldn’t long remain silent. If you saw a brutal band drive helpless families from their own homes, you would speak out, and promptly.” ~Thomas E Dewey, November, 1938

April 27 – May 4 marks the Days of Remembrance, set aside by the US Congress as our nation’s annual commemoration of the Holocaust.

Friday, May 2 marks Yom HaShoah – Holocaust Memorial

This isn’t your typical “holiday” filled with commercialism and parties. This is a solemn day of remembrance, of mourning. Whether you have family who were lost in the Holocaust, family who survived the horrors, or have no familial connection at all, it’s a day to mourn those lost and to make a solemn promise of “never again.”

As the atrocities fade further and further into the past, as living survivors becomes more and more rare, it become ever more important to remember the systematic, bureaucratic, state-sponsored persecution and murder of approximately six million Jews by the Nazi regime and its collaborators.

When I was in school, we studied World War II and the Holocaust simultaneously. Many of my teachers were old enough that the scar was still fresh, the wound still bleeding, and the pain still very real. Years passed and I had children of my own; I was surprised when in their first World History classes, my children barely heard of the Holocaust, that this incredible atrocity was mentioned only in passing, then brushed aside as “covered.”

Actually, surprised is too bland a word. I was shocked, stunned into disbelief, and outraged. The curriculum gave more coverage to Cinco de Mayo, a cultural festival marking the anniversary of Mexican troupes defeating the French and commonly mistaken for Mexican Independence Day

(which it isn’t – that would be September 16).

They spent an entire week covering Cinco de Mayo, but all of 10 minutes on the Holocaust? Shall we discuss the conversation I had with the school regarding that particular curriculum choice?

Unfortunately, memories dim. Years pass and wounds turn into rapidly fading scars, soon to be forgotten.

Despite numerous survivors’ testimonies, despite the Nuremburg trials, despite evidence to the contrary, there are those who downplay the Holocaust. There are those who claim Auschwitz wasn’t anywhere near as bad as it was made out to be and the estimate of lives lost is overstated. There are those who claim the genocide never happened. Some even go so far as to claim the Holocaust is an elaborate hoax.

While today those attitudes may seem extreme, in just a few year’s time, it will become easier and easier to believe – with no living survivors to continue telling the tale, with schools no longer teaching on the Holocaust, who will there be to stand and speak up?

When there are no longer those who can say, “It happened” there will no longer be those to say, “and it will never happen again.”