“When my grandson was born I finally realized I had won the battle. I have had descendents, therefore, I had beaten Hitler”.

Yesterday I got the chance to listen to four amazing speakers during the conference “Tolerance and Inclusion respect the Holocaust” organised by the Centro Educacional Holocausto y Humanidades. The main goal was to provide Peruvian teachers with tools to teach about the former subject in their schools.

All of the speakers were really impressive and full of invaluable information, but today I would like to share with you a few things I have learned from two of them.

Leon Trahtemberg talked about the history and the parameters to understand the Holocaust. How it was necessary to get the complete context to be able to fully understand what happened back then. If I transfer here every single thing I wrote on my notebook from his speech, this post would be too long to read, but recently an awful question has been asked by many, I think I will answer with what Leon taught me.

Is it necessary to keep teaching and remembering the Holocaust? Yes, it is. And I will tell you why.

  • To pray kaddish for those who don’t have someone to do it for them. Many Jewish families were completely erradicated and now they don’t have someone to remember and honour them.
  • To remember one of the darkest phases of Judaism history. Israel is a young country, and has a lot of scars during its history, so it is important to remind every important fact of it.
  • To prevent humanity from it to happen again. We are currently living in a world surrounded by strong cases of genocide, such as Boko Haram, ISIS, and others, and what are we doing about that? Are we just looking to the other way while thousands of people die because of extremist religion crazy guys? Are we the representation of the witness that never defends the victim but support the attacker with the silence?
  • To honour those who helped Jewish people, like Raoul Wallenberg, and others. Many important countries decided to ignore the call of help made by the Jewish people, althought some of their citizens decided to take the chance and save as many Jews as possible, even if their own lives were in risk.
  • Because it is not finished yet, now we have neonazism. We have ignorant young people who thinks nazism is being cool, different, better than the rest, and we are taking the risk of neonazism to attack again by keeping our youth in the ignorance about what happen just 50 years ago.
  • Because it’s the reason to remain alive of many survivors. Many Jews keep the emotional and physical scars of surviving the Holocaust. They have a constant reminder of what they went throught and the gift of being survivors.
  • And on top, because I was there. I’m a descendent of those who fought against Hitler, against anti-semitism, against nazism, and won the war. I still don’t know much about my great-grandpa, but I know one thing, at least one of my relatives was there, and that means I was also there.

Irene Shashar, is a survivor of the Holocaust. She was the last speaker at the conference, and she was the reason why I stopped writing and just focused in the person in front of the audithorium. During the third speech she arrived and incidentally she was standing next to me. The first thing I thought was: She looks like a fighter. Minutes later I would confirm she indeed was one.

She told us about her story, how she was part of the gueto in Varsovia, how her mum saved her, and took her from one place to another in order to both remain alive. She found her father dead in her kitchen, she is still looking for any picture of him, just to remember his face. Irene ended up in France, her mum died while she was at boarding school, then she was brought to Peru by his grandpa to live with an uncle that finally adopted her.

The quote I started this post with was said by Irene during her speech. Her story brought me to tears, but more than that, it made me realise an obvious truth, Jewish people are fighters and survivors. Jews are the owners and creators of their future, and are the result of their past.

Should schools and universities keep teaching and remembering Holocaust? Definitely yes, because now we need, more than ever, living proof of what happened in the past to prevent anything remotely like the Holocaust from happen again.

We need to keep honouring the Shoah because we have beaten Hitler, and Jewish people daily tell the world they could not be erradicated back then, and then will not be, not now, not ever.

Irene Shashar is my hero. She is a fighter. A survivor. A proud Jew.

Irene Shashar is my hero. She is a fighter. A survivor. A proud Jew.