“Why do we fall Bruce? So that we can learn to pick ourselves up.”
-Thomas Wayne to his son Bruce
Holocaust events, commemorations, services and also, therefore, education are the source of much sadness. This is an inherent element of the nature of such things.
But need it be an exclusive one?
In true UN Holocaust Remembrance Day fashion I felt overwhelmingly surrounded by only negative reflections and bitterness when I happened upon a wonderful photo. Shown in it were representatives of the Israeli Defence Forces in procession outside of Auschwitz Death Camp where approximately 1 of the 6 million Jewish Holocaust victims were murdered.
It inspires me in my personal reflection of the Shoah to consider it in two parts. The past, and the present/future, and the need for this to be integrated now into how we educate on Holocaust to students around the world.
On the one hand we have the tragic loss of millions of Jews sent to the chambers in the Nazi regime – the lowest point in 2000 years of a tragedy-ridden Jewish history.
After countless pogroms, massacres, and the forced conversions of Jewish exile from its homeland the worst was yet to come.
A Nation of Priests sent to its death by the cold blooded machines of Nazism.
It’s like nothing else… There can be no comparison to its carry-out, the cold-bloodedness, the sheer evil. 6 million innocent, including 1.5 million children, gone. And we mourn them, still… Always.
There can never be a time in Jewish education on the Holocaust where we don’t commemorate the loss of our martyred people.
But that can’t be the entirety of Holocaust education. Those innocent Jewish victims did not die in vain, it wasn’t the end of the people of Israel.
Nor is the Jewish story a tragic one, it’s a miraculous one bent on survival. Perhaps another people may have finally succumbed to the pressures of its enemies to assimilate, disappear, give up on their Yiddishkeit and fade out of existence. But the Jewish people survived, and demonstrated a resilience the world hadn’t seen before and simply hasn’t since.
It has self-determination, an autonomous state with borders, a defence force that has overcome army after army through miracle after miracle, a strong economy, ever growing innovations and inventions, not to mention an assured representation on the world stage. There are more Jews collectively learning Torah in Yeshivah now then there ever has been, meaning the assured continued existence of Jewish Mesorah (tradition), religion and culture for years to come. Furthermore, Jews are over-represented in almost every elite field of academia and profession in the world and have produced proportionately more Nobel scholars than any other people in the world.
So surely, then, Holocaust education is not purely a tragic memory that we recall once or twice a year at the UN Remembrance Day or Yom HaShoah.
When young people are educated on the tragedy of the Holocaust, they should not only learn what Jews suffered but what happened next, the resolve of Jews globally not to give in to the external pressures of the world, but rather to take its rightful place alongside the other nations.
The Jewish story is not a depressing one… It’s an inspiring one.
Don’t let their loss be for nothing.