train car displayed at Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Israel.
Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, April 21, 2009
The Holocaust was the systematic annihilation of six million Jews by the Nazi regime during World War 2. In 1933 approximately nine million Jews lived in the 21 countries of Europe that would be occupied by Germany during the war. By 1945 two out of every three European Jews had been killed. The European Jews were the primary victims of the Holocaust. But Jews were not the only group singled out for persecution by Hitler’s Nazi regime. As many as one-half million Gypsies, at least 250,000 mentally or physically disabled persons, and more than three million Soviet prisoners-of-war also fell victim to Nazi genocide. Jehovah’s Witnesses, homosexuals, Social Democrats, Communists, partisans, trade unionists, Polish intelligentsia and other undesirables were also victims of the hate and aggression carried out by the Nazis.
The train car above is so symbolic to me. When I think of the Holocaust, I always think of Anne Frank, as I read her diary multiple times as a young person. The picture she paints of being rounded up and transported like so much cattle is harrowing and vivid...almost unbelievable.
Below is one of the classic photos of the victims of the extreme evil that was 'the final solution'. But, when we look at these types of photos, somehow we don't see or remember that these people looked just like you and me before they were snatched out of their normal lives; dressed in nice clothes, healthy and well-fed, having families and careers...snatched only because of who they were.
When I visited Israel the first time, (I've been twice, Baruch HaShem), the holocaust memorial Yad VaShem was not on the itinerary. I was shocked, and somehow manipulated the rest of the tour to agree to changing our schedule to allow for a visit to the new memorial. I was not prepared for the deep emotional response I felt...these are my people, my life. I don't know that anyone is fully prepared for the full extent of wickedness and useless loss of life as was this despicable part of our history. The second time I had the privilege to visit Israel, it was on the list of places we would visit, and again, I allowed myself to feel the pain, frustration and suffering. I was not able to completely view all the displays either time I was there...it's just too much.
As you enter the memorial, there are rooms and displays laid out in the chronological order of events and years that led to six million souls, Jews and others, losing their lives. You criss-cross the long hallway reading, viewing video of survivors and displays of artifacts all the way down to the end, which opens into a glorious view of modern Israel. It is beautiful and lush, filled with trees and life...and hope.
Blessed are you, LORD our G-d, King of the Universe, for the good land you have given us...
On this day, and every day - let us not forget that there are evil people in the world, and that they desire only to destroy. Jews have been targeted throughout history, for whatever reason, and we continue to be in the cross-hairs of those set to our destruction. There are other people groups that are undesirable to these dictators, as well. It is real and it is now - not just then. Let us not be lulled into complacency. Let us not let things get to such a point that history is repeated.
Let us not forget.