Today, on Yom HaShoah, we remember the 6 million. We stand for a moment of silence as a siren blares throughout Israel, and we go to Holocaust Remembrance events. But for some of us, it’s a more personal thing.
The Holocaust has always been something very personal to me, because it has affected my family in ways that only a survivor and their children can truly grasp. Sometimes it’s simple things, like going to the doctor and being unable to give a complete family medical history. I get asked, “Did your father’s parents have any health issues?”. I reply, “I have no idea”. Sometimes it’s other things, like childhood memories of having only 1 side of my family at events, while my friends had 2 sets of grandparents.
Running Out of Time
There will sadly come a time when those who lived through the atrocities of the Holocaust will no longer be here to tell their stories to the world. Therefore, it is critical that we who are the 2nd generation assume the mantle to serve as their testimonies.
It’s so easy to say things like “never again” and “never forget” but do little to ensure that these words have actionable meaning. It’s our responsibility to keep the conversation going. Ask questions, talk to survivors, and educate others. Of course, there are those who suffered horrors too painful to talk about, but for those who do speak about their experiences, listen and learn.
Education and Support
Education is key. Teach kids about the Holocaust without sugar-coating things, while being sensitive to their level of understanding.
Support organizations like March of the Living, which has brought over 250,000 youth to Poland to bear witness to the horrors of the Holocaust, and The Shoah Foundation, created by Steven Spielberg to preserve survivors’ testimonies on video. They ensure that thousands of eyewitness accounts are recorded for future generations.
A few years ago, my father started traveling to Poland with high school groups. He serves as a living witness to the Holocaust, someone they can relate to and from whom they can feel a strong impact. When he tells them his story while standing on the grounds of Auschwitz, it is an incredibly powerful moment.
Recent news reports like the brutal murder of Mireille Knoll in Paris serves as a reminder that Anti-Semitism is far from over. We’ve got to do everything in our power to fight it. Stand up in the face of Holocaust deniers and those who seek to rewrite history.
(Hello, Poland. I’m talking to you.)
Let us truly never, ever forget.