The Holocaust—quite possibly the most horrifying act of genocide ever committed. Approximately 2/3 of the Jewish population was killed in Europe during World War II and the Holocaust. Six million lives were lost—the lives of infants, children, wives, mothers, husbands, fathers, brothers, and sisters.
And for what reason? Selfish insanity. It's nearly impossible to wrap one’s mind around the why. But here’s what is not impossible—learning, caring, loving, and serving those in need as a result of this heinous act in history.
There is something in everyone’s life that speaks to them, moves them, and tugs at their heartstrings. For those who love Israel and the people, remembering the Holocaust is that thing.
To get to the sweet part, you have to sift through the bitterness of the past. The past should always help us see the future with a clearer perspective so that we can sow it with seeds of hope.
The Holocaust isn’t a bump in the historical timeline that can be smoothed over. It isn’t something that can be read about once and then left alone. It is an intricate combination of lives, stories, families, and faith that must be studied, analyzed, and remembered with introspective soul-searching.
When you remember the Holocaust—its survivors and victims—it changes you. It changes the way you see humanity—both good and evil. And it changes the way you see survival—that it is possible against all odds.
Holocaust Remembrance Day 2019 is Sunday, January 27. Interestingly enough, it is one week after the Sanctity of Human Life Day. Could God be trying to send us a clear message that we are to remember, honor, and protect those who have no voice?
If this is our call, then we need to take a moment, right now, to hear from those who lived through the horrendous conditions of concentration camps such as Auschwitz and Buchenwald. If you’ve ever read the following quotes from these various survivors and authors, may their words give you hope, determination, strength, and courage in the face of adversity you might encounter.
Elie Wiesel was a Jewish American writer born in the town of Sighet, Romania, in 1928. He was also a political activist, professor, and Holocaust Survivor. He and his family were deported to the Auschwitz concentration camp in 1944 when Wiesel was 15 years old.
Both of his parents and little sister died there, but Wiesel and his 2 older sisters survived. After being transferred to Buchenwald and then liberated in 1945, Wiesel was taken to Paris where he studied journalism.
He wrote a book titled Night that reflected on his experiences as a prisoner in Auschwitz and Buchenwald.
I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”—Elie Wiesel
Annelies Marie Frank—best known for her wartime journal, The Diary of a Young Girl—was born in Frankfurt, Germany, in 1929. After years in hiding, Frank was transferred to Auschwitz then on to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp near Celle, Germany, in 1944 with her sister, Margot. Both girls died of typhus in March 1945.
The book The Diary of a Young Girl is a collection of Frank’s documentations of her life from 1942 to 1944 while in hiding.
Who has inflicted this upon us? Who has made us Jews different from all other people? Who has allowed us to suffer so terribly up till now? It is God that has made us as we are, but it will be God, too, who will raise us up again. If we bear all this suffering and if there are still Jews left, when it is over, then Jews, instead of being doomed, will be held up as an example. Who knows, it might even be our religion from which the world and all peoples learn good, and for that reason and that reason alone do we have to suffer now. We can never become just Netherlanders, or just English, or representatives of any country for that matter; we will always remain Jews, but we want to, too.”—Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl
Yehuda Bauer was a professor of Holocaust studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Bauer was born in Prague, Czechoslovakia, in 1926. His family moved to Israel in 1939. Upon returning to Israel, he joined Kibbutz Shoval and began his graduated studies at Hebrew University.
Bauer has been recognized for his work and studies regarding the Holocaust and prevention of genocide. He received the Israel Prize in 1998 for his work. The Israel Prize is the highest civilian award in Israel.
Thou shalt not be a victim, thou shalt not be a perpetrator, but, above all, thou shalt not be a bystander.”—Yehuda Bauer
Primo Michele Levi is well known for his autobiographical account of the Holocaust, Survival in Auschwitz. It was published just 3 years after the end of World War II. Though his stature was small and his personality timid, he excelled academically.
Levi’s mind was as multidimensional as his writing. He wrote several books, novels, and a collection of short stories. He had a unique way of seeing the world. His view of Auschwitz was not just a concentration camp holding people until their death, but a breeding ground for mind games where the Nazis would pit victim against victim, dehumanizing them over and over until survival was a mere thread to hold on to.
Although he survived Auschwitz and returned home following the war, he could not escape the nightmares of his past. The haunting, dehumanizing methods used against him consumed his mind, and he ended his life on April 11, 1987.
Monsters exist, but they are too few in number to be truly dangerous. More dangerous are the common men, the functionaries ready to believe and to act without asking questions.”—Primo Levi
“Sooner or later in life everyone discovers that perfect happiness is unrealizable, but there are few who pause to consider the antithesis: that perfect unhappiness is equally unattainable. The obstacles preventing the realization of both these extreme states are of the same nature: they derive from our human condition which is opposed to everything infinite.”—Primo Levi, Survival in Auschwitz
Through these words, you can begin to see the torment each of these individuals went through. Today, many survivors are still living and battling demons in their mind every day. Though we cannot take away the pain from the past, we can plant seeds of hope for their future.
We can honor a victim—someone who never got a chance to leave us with words as Elie Wiesel or Primo Levi did. We can plant a tree in their name and give them the legacy they deserve—in their homeland.
A line out of Joel C. Rosenberg’s book The Auschwitz Escape poses the question about Christians helping Jews in this way: “The question shouldn't be ‘Why are you, a Christian, here in a death camp, condemned for trying to save Jews?' The real question is ‘Why aren't all the Christians here?’”
It is up to us to remember. It is up to us to honor. Will you join us in remembering this Holocaust Memorial Day?
Go HERE to learn more about how you can be tied to their legacy.