The Faithbook

A place of writing and reflection…

Holocaust Remembrance Day

Screen_Shot_2016-01-27_at_12.23.26_PM“But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”

—Luke 21:36

Holocaust survivor, Henia Bryer, recalls, “I had an operation once and the anesthetist comes and looks at [the number tattooed on] my arm and he says, ‘What is this?’ And I said, ‘That’s from Auschwitz.’ And he said, ‘Auschwitz, what was that?’ …And that was a young man, a qualified doctor”.[1] Shockingly, people are growing up without knowing about what really happened.

Today is Holocaust Remembrance Day in Europe and the United States of America, but all too often, acknowledgement of the Nazi atrocities and subtle anti-Semitism sit uncomfortably alongside each other. It is hard to forget the horrors of the Holocaust, but while some actively deny the scope or even the very existence of the atrocities, others simply grow up unaware of the history we vowed never to forget.

Memory Aids

As well as remembering the awful end and devious beginnings of the holocaust, it is also helpful to focus in on a few individual stories when trying to honour the memory of what happened. The horrors can overwhelm us and make it hard to take in when we are confronted with such enormous numbers of murders and incomprehensible atrocities. Different attempts have been made to zone in on personal stories, like that of Anne Frank, and to personalize the suffering like the collection of shoes in the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum which help us think of the real lives of those who perished.
There were also attempts to catalogue the realities of the Jewish suffering for posterity by those who went through it. A 19 year old boy called David Graber decided to write down what was happening from inside the Warsaw ghetto in order to inform people in the future. He was joined by another teenager, Nahum Grzywacz, and a teacher, Israel Lichtensztajn. The three determined to record every detail of ghetto life in a huge archive – David’s “great treasure”. The codename for this project was Oyneg Shabbes (Joy of the Sabbath).
Researchers found tens of thousands of documents that had been carefully collected and stored by August 1942. Some were written, in the form of diaries, essays and commissioned surveys, poetry and precise reportage in Yiddish, Polish and other European languages. Among them they found a recipe for how to make rotten fish palatable as the people were starving and turned to desperate measures to make anything resembling food into something edible.
And there was this note from Lichtenstzajn on behalf of himself and his wife, a well-known artist:

“I only wish to be remembered… I wish my wife to be remembered, Gele Seksztajn. I wish my little daughter to be remembered. Margalit is 20 months old today.”[2]

Let us remember them.


[1] Read Henia’s story here
[2] David’s great treasure – Oyneg Shabbes project

The Faithbook 2016
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