30 April 2011

A Day of Remembrance

Recently my brother had the opportunity to meet and hear the daughters of Shoah survivors Joseph and Rebecca Bau speak. He posted about in on Facebook. Like many things I see and read through the course of an otherwise average day, it started me thinking.

It wasn't long before I found myself at the Yad Vashem website. I discovered that at sunset tomorrow, May the first, begins the annual "Day of Remembrance" for victims and heroes of this black and frightening time in human history. There was born in me a need to remember, speak, and encourage others to do the same.

I want to make it clear that I use the Hebrew word Shoah (meaning calamity) out of respect. Up until this week I was totally unaware that one definition of holocaust is "a burnt offering or an offering to God". I think we can agree that there was nothing holy about what happened.

At this time there are an estimated 350,000 survivors left. There are fewer than 2 million American Vets who saw combat in World War II and of course not all of those were in Europe. We are quickly approaching a time when there will be no one left to give our children first hand testimony of how deep and wide that advanced form of bullying called persecution can cut.

Victims of Nazi persecution included not just European Jews, but gypsies, slavs, the mentally ill and disabled, the physically disabled, homosexuals, transexuals, political opponents, religious dissidents, and those who in their humanity reached out to offer aid and succor. Essentially anyone who didn't fit the ideal or wouldn't play by their twisted rules.

Having grown up in a gentile home where respect for other cultures was a given, and curiosity about them was encouraged, I spent years trying to wrap my mind around the enormity of this madness. I've given up trying to understand and now have only heartache and a feeling of loss. How can I feel a sense of loss for people I never knew, who died more than twenty years before Iwas born? Because I am human, because I wonder about their "might have beens", and because I fear. I fear that with the passage of time comes a buffering, a numbing, and finally a forgetting that will lead humanity into dangerous waters.

My hope for each of you is that you could find within yourself the strength, courage and humanity to speak up in such a situation and say "Not here. Not now." That we would each be able to reach beyond our small abilities and make a difference.

I want to challenge each of you to take time to join in this day of remembrance. If you have children I want to encourage you to speak to them about what happened. Make sure they understand how much hate can devour. Help them to learn to love and appreciate their fellow man. Because...
                              "those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it"

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