Friday, January 27, 2017

International Holocaust Remembrance Day

My friend Valerie posted some beautiful artwork yesterday and explained that today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day.  When I was a grad student at Wichita State University, I had a professor, Dr. Greenberg, who always got upset (actually he went on a tirade) when anyone said the Holocaust didn't exist.  I'm not a Jew, and I wasn't around during that time, but I KNOW the Holocaust DID exist, and so should everyone.  You don't just erase SIX MILLION people from the planet and pretend it never happened.

This image from JPost commemorates some of the Hungarian Jews held at Auschwitz.    Many ceremonies and memorials coinciding with the 72nd anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz are scheduled for today.

With anti-Semitism on the rise in Europe and nearly half the United States agreeing with President Trump to tighten our borders against refugees, I keep comparing this time in our lives to WWII.  Many Palestinian leaders have warned that if Trump moves forward with his campaign promise to move the Israeli embassy, it could lead to instability and possibly violence in that region.

I may be a pessimist, and I hope I will be proven wrong, but I keep seeing so many similarities between these times and what was going on in Auschwitz and Europe during the second World War, it's scary.   Believe me, if things turn out better than expected, I'll gladly be the first to admit I was wrong.

This and the next photo were taken from Yad Vasham, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center located in Jerusalem.

Wikipedia tells us:
The name "Yad Vashem" is taken from a verse in the Book of Isaiah: "Even unto them will I give in my house and within my walls a place and a name better than of sons and of daughters: I will give them an everlasting name, that shall not be cut off" (Isaiah 56:5). Naming the Holocaust memorial "yad vashem"  conveys the idea of establishing a national depository for the names of Jewish victims who have no one to carry their name after death. The original verse referred to eunuchs who, although they could not have children, could still live for eternity with the Lord.
One of the artists who inspired me when I was researching the Holocaust was Zinovii Tolkatchev, whose art is featured at Yad Vashem.  He wrote: 
“I did what I had to do; I couldn’t refrain from doing it. My heart commanded, my conscience demanded, the hatred for fascism reigned.” In these words, artist Private Zinovii Tolkatchev embodies the creative essence of one who arrived at the gates of hell in Red Army uniform.

All of these images are haunting and very impressive.

This is a photo of the actual death camp known as Birkenau, or Auschwitz II.  There were actually three Auschwitz's, the first was built to hold Polish political prisoners beginning in 1940.  Birkenau or Auschwitz II was built to exterminate the Jews brought to the camps from 1941 to 1944.  Auschwitz III was built to produce rubber products and to house slave labor building Auschwitz III. 

They are all loosely connected in location.

Birkenau held four crematoria, the mass killing solution decided on by Hitler to quickly and efficiently eliminate thousands of Jews at once. 

They were brought by train cars and deposited directly into the chambers like the one shown in the photo above the maps.  Most of those who died, did so in one of the four gas chambers.

Although many of those prisoners still in the camp in January, 1945 were sent on a death march (or forcible movement of prisoners), those left behind were liberated on January 27, 1945 (now you know why today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day).

Toward the end of the war, as the Allies approached from the west and the Soviet Union approached from the east, the SS told overseers of the camps to get rid of the prisoners, destroy all paperwork, and dismantle the gas chambers.  They didn't want the world to know about their atrocities.

According to Wikipedia:
Although most of the prisoners were already very weak or ill after enduring the routine violence, overwork, and starvation of concentration camp or prison camp life, they were marched for kilometres in the snow to railway stations, then transported for days at a time without food, water, or shelter in freight carriages originally designed for cattle. On arrival at their destination, they were then forced to march again to new camps. Prisoners who were unable to keep up due to fatigue or illness were usually executed by gunshot.
This cattle car monument stands in Yad Vashem.  Designed by Moshe Safdie, it is also known as the Memorial to the Deportees.

And to show how twisted some in my country have become, before Christmas and Hanukkah in Arizona, vandals turned a family's menorah into a swastika.  The community came together after the menorah was rebuilt to show support by attending a re-lighting ceremony.  According to the Arizona Central web site:   
"Whether it's vandalizing or using hate symbols, it's not normal," said Carlos Galindo-Elvira, Arizona regional director for the Anti-Defamation League.
According to Galindo-Elvira, Arizona has seen an increase in similar incidents in the past few weeks. The incidents range from damaging menorahs, swastikas on cakes and Jewish children being confronted by other children at school.
"We have to be strong and overcome hateful acts and hateful words together," Galindo-Elvira said. As for the increase in these types of incidents?
"We just came out of a very emotional, heated general election," Galindo-Elvira said. "Certainly there are blocks of communities that feel emboldened by the inviting rhetoric of hate and that let the genie out of the bottle."
This rally form is from 2013.

I would like to end with something positive.  I would ask that each of my readers, friends, and followers take a moment today to talk to someone about their feelings on the Holocaust.  Or maybe, like my friend Valerie, create a piece of lovely art to share on your blog.  You might be in a position to visit one of the many Holocaust museums around the world.  I was truly surprised by how many there were.  Here's a list of them I found on Wikipedia.  And here is a list of those in the U.S. by state.  Here is a PDF for you to download.  If you live in a state or country that doesn't have a Holocaust museum, at least talk to someone about this horrendous atrocity and celebrate International Holocaust Remembrance Day so this never happens again.  Remember, please, I want to be proven wrong about my worst fears that we are headed to a repeat of Auschwitz and WWII, only this time on an even bigger scale and stage. 

And thank you beyond belief for following me through to the end of this very long post.

20 thoughtful remarks:

Valerie-Jael said...

Great post, thanks! Yad Vashem was one of the most moving places I have ever visited. I also visited Auschwitz and Bergen Belsen, and I can never understand how people deny history. You are right about this time reminding very much of the time in Europe and Germany back in the 1930s. I just hope people will wake up before it is too late. Thanks again for posting, I am off to a memorial service now. Hugs, Valerie

froebelsternchen Susi said...

A fabulous post! We must never forget that!

Valerie-Jael said...

There's a wonderful verse which just came into my mind - those who sow the wind shall reap the whirlwind.

chrissie said...

A very moving post Elizabeth and brought back memories of books I read of the events and of drawings on scraps of paper I saw years ago. We must never forget these events and hope they never happen again

Love Chrissie xx

My name is Erika. said...

It is a scary time right now. Our impulsive president has inspired so many to think its OK to act this way. When I was in high school I had a friend who's Mom was a Polish catholic woman but she involved in the Polish resistance. She was captured and put in a concentration camp. Most of the times she kept her arms covered but when she didn't, you could see her prisoner ID tattoo. The holocaust was a horrible horrible thing, and to deny it existed is just plain ignorance.The scariest part is the amount of hate a society can have-and right now we seem to have so much of it out there. OK, I could continue, but I will stop. Wonderful post of remembrance and talking about the relation to our world today. Hugs-Erika

Angela Radford said...

Hi Elizabeth, great post and like you I hope you are wrong. Angela xXx

Meggymay said...

A very moving post Elizabeth. This is one of the things we will never forget. On our TV this morning there was an interview with a survivor who was a young child at the time. The emotions, as he shared with us his memories brought tears to me. He even had the first yellow star his mom had made for him.
Another lady who's parents managed to get her to America speaks in schools about how it effected her. She was shipped back to England after the war to a relative. She's even had children calling her a liar and saying it couldn't happen.
Her reply was ''it did and it happened to me''.
I'm all for teaching our younger generations about this part of the world's history. Hoping that they will take it to heart and never let it happen again. Am I wishful thinking... I hope I am.
Sorry to go on, but I think I share your views.
Yvonne xx

Jeanie said...

Elizabeth, thank you for one of the most powerful and moving posts I've read. Maybe ever. I have a great fear as I see much of history repeating itself in the most vile and unconscionable ways in our own country. I can happen and it can happen to us if we aren't vigilant and proactive. So many don't really understand this in the graphic, horrid reality that it was. It isn't pleasant and I'm not sure it's taught in schools as other history. The current activities are heartbreaking and frightening.

When I was in Diary of Anne Frank, one of our cast member's parents came. They had met while in the camps. Hearing their stories is something I will never forget. Ever. Thank you for this -- once again.

CJ Kennedy said...

In high school, I went on a trip to Germany. 1973 when Germany was still a divided country East and West Germany. We were taken to Dachau, a concentration camp outside of Munich now a memorial museum. There was a silence about the place. Not just reverential, but deep, eerie. A feeling of being watched and a feeling of deep sadness.

When I was in college,I was engaged to a young man who was Polish. His parents emigrated to Canada and then to the US after the war. His parents were both sent to a "Work camp" I don't know which one. They were Catholic. His father had died of cancer before I came into the picture. His mother bore a number tatoo on her inside forearm. She also insisted at meals that her place be set with a spoon that had a Swastika insignia. I suspect it had been her husband's when they were in the camp.

Indeed frightening times. When the behaviors of those in power give the impression that's it's ok to vandalize or yell racial slurs in the name of our country. All in the name of: We're great. We're the best. We're superior. When the media and the scientific community are forced into silence. That's not democracy. That's a dictatorship. Alternative facts are lies, propaganda. We have seen this before. "those that do not study history are doomed to repeat it. We must remember and speak up. Never Again!

Marilyn Miller said...

Thank you for reminding us. We must be ever vigilant to this not happening again.

Birgit said...

It is disgusting that some people truly believe this never happened despite everything that shows otherwise. As for Trump-it is scary and many do not see this which is also scary and I have been comparing him to Hitler since he first started spouting off crap. My mom is German and was 17 when the war ended. She told me that once, she and her mom walked by a factory (she lived near Wittenberg) and a man asked her if he could have part of her sandwich. Her mom said to do it quickly and my mom did. She then would go by there every day and bring him a sandwich and he once gave her a ring he had made (she lost it unfortunately). One day when she went there, he was not there and never returned. After the war, when the Russians marched in and used tanks to mow down the gardens and shot all the animals to starve them all, there was a knock on their door and it was a Jewish man, in rags who was hungry. Other homes would not open their door out of fear or whatever but my grandparents gave him what meager food they had which was potato soup-broth with some old potatoes in it. They also gave him a change of clothes and he was so grateful. My mo m said a few months later, when they were still so, so hungry, this man came back but doing much better and gave them food and some clothing since my mom had no shoes. I am proud of my Oma and Opa and my mom for doing this. When my mom found out about what had truly occurred (remember she was 17 when the war ended), she was so ashamed to be German that she tried to hide her heritage. It was very difficult and still is to know your own countrymen could do this. My dad, who was in his 20's during the great depression remembered how many people in Canada and the US were for Hitler! All the average Joe saw was how they were struggling and losing everything but Germany was thriving and the average Joe, over there, could afford a car, a home and send their kids to school. There was also a strong dislike for the Jewish people as well which is so very, very sad. Sorry for my long response:)

Lisca Meijer said...

I didn't know it was Holocaust Remembrance day but we have talked about it at the table tonight. My father's brother had married a Jewish girl (My aunty)and she and her sister had to go into hiding during the war, separated from their parents (in Holland, just like Anna Frank). They were found eventually and taken to Theresienstad concentration camp, but luckily survived the war. Later a journalist wrote a book about that family and their story. Fascinating.In our family we knew some of what had happened but not everything as auntie N never talked about it.
Very interesting post. Thanks for sharing,

Neet said...

That was such a powerful and moving post Elizabeth. is well worth reading - please do. I got my stamping group involved with making hundreds of butterflies which I then posted to the USA a few years ago.
I hope and pray we never see dark days like those again. Thank you for a read which I will return to again.

Denise Spillane said...

Thank you for posting this. We must never forget or diminish this. Love all your posts, I will try to comment more but I usually just read.

Sandra Cox said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sandra Cox said...

I have never understood how anyone could deny the holocaust happened. One of the blackest times in our history.
I also don't understand how statements, that have solid facts to back them up, can be called untruths.
A very sensitive and well written post.

Rita said...

The artwork is definitely haunting.

Divers and Sundry said...

The Wikipedia list doesn't include the museum here in Memphis, but the Belz Museum downtown has a section on that period of history -the Holocaust Memorial Gallery with photos of Memphians and relevant displays: It's horrifying to see the evil that people are capable of!

pearshapedcrafting said...

This post is so interesting! I have read quite a lot about the Holocaust (tried to find a way to teach 14 year old Special Needs children) In the end stuck to mainly using Ann Frank's story and 'The Boy in Striped Pyjamas' I hope you are wrong about what may happen but from what we are seeing here I can understand why I you are feeling this way! Chrisx

pearshapedcrafting said...

This post is so interesting! I have read quite a lot about the Holocaust (tried to find a way to teach 14 year old Special Needs children) In the end stuck to mainly using Ann Frank's story and 'The Boy in Striped Pyjamas' I hope you are wrong about what may happen but from what we are seeing here I can understand why I you are feeling this way! Chrisx