Meira E. Schneider-Atik
marching to the beat of my own drummer

Erasing vs. Preserving our history

My daughter has participated for the second time in the “Names, Not Numbers” project. Students interview Holocaust survivors and document their stories. I love that they interview men and women who experienced the Holocaust in so many different ways. The firsthand accounts are mind-blowing. The survivors I met at the presentation are all wonderfully inspiring people. The whole point of the project is to show that the Holocaust is not just numbers and statistics. It’s about real people who were persecuted, tortured, and murdered because the Nazis and others saw them as sub-human.

Many years ago, I heard a lecture from a historian and scholar who spoke about combatting Holocaust denial and one of the things he said was that survivors’ firsthand accounts are one of the important ways to combat that denial. That’s one reason that the Names, Not Numbers project is so important. The firsthand accounts put faces and names on it and show the reality of the crimes against humanity. 

What’s scary is when we Jews allow ourselves to see fellow Jews as less than human. Nowhere is this more obvious, albeit insidious, as the erasing of women from view. 

There have been articles in Jewish publications about the Holocaust and about survivors that do not allow the faces of the women and girls to be shown. Either they left out any photos of women at all, as with the story of the boy-girl twins who survived Mengele’s experiments, or they blurred or pixilated the faces of the women. 

First, our Kedoshot do NOT deserve this. Women and girls who experienced the Holocaust do not deserve to be erased from our visual history. We deserve to see their faces and know who they were. We deserve to learn from them and be inspired by them. There were people who experienced the Holocaust who made a specific effort to never lose sight of their human dignity and their Tzelem Elokim. Many of them were murdered but they still triumphed over the Nazis by not allowing the Nazis to dehumanize them. 

Second, as a nation, we do not deserve to have our history erased. We have enemies who are trying to destroy our history. Not only are they denying the Holocaust but they’re denying our heritage in Eretz Yisrael. Why are we making it easier for them? For the sake of “tznius”? There’s nothing tzniut-appropriate about turning people into objects. 

I wish all the remaining survivors, men and women, including the ones I met last night, many more years of Torah, mitzvot, love, family, and inspiring others. And I hope that we can all remember them, men and women, as real people with names and faces.  

About the Author
Meira E. Schneider-Atik is a wardrobe stylist, personal shopper, and writer/blogger. Her goal is to help women feel good about themselves and to dispel the myths about tzniut and dressing well. Her heart is in Eretz Yisrael, but for now, she and her family live in Queens, NY.
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