Remembrance and Reflection for Holocaust Remembrance Day
The turning point for Europe and beginning of the Holocaust is often considered to be Night of the Broken Glass or Kristallnacht in German. On the 9-10th of November 1938, German civilians and SA Paramilitary forces entered an area filled with Jewish shop owners, destroying synagogues (Jewish places of worship), shops and restaurants; the glass refers to the broken windows littering the street. It is estimated 91 Jewish civilians were murdered; although many German scholars, such as Richard J. Evans, believe the number to be higher. With no warning, thirty thousand Jewish men were arrested and placed in concentration camps. The German authorities looked on and did nothing.
To attempt to detail all the atrocities of the Holocaust in one article would not only be an injustice, but impossible. If nothing else, we must understand that the Jewish communities murdered took with them knowledge, history and culture (i.e.: Jews in Latvia may have different traditions then Jews in Italy), that we may never regain. It is estimated six million Jewish people were murdered in the Holocaust; the true number is thought to be much higher. This is due to the fact Nazi’s broke into Jewish homes, shooting families and destroying entire towns. Thus, we only have an estimate of the dead.
The different bodies of the world observe Holocaust Remembrance Day on different days, the United Nations, along with the European Union have chosen the 27th of January. Canada and a variety of European countries, observe their own days. Perhaps the most interesting is the United States and Israel, which commemorate remembrance in different ways. In the United States, Holocaust Remembrance Day titled “Days of Remembrance of the Victims of the Holocaust” stretches eight days - which may sound odd at first. The eight-day period begins the Sunday before Yom HaShoah in Israel and ends the Sunday after.
In Israel, Holocaust Remembrance day is titled “Yom HaShoah” meaning the day of the catastrophe. You see, the definition of Holocaust in the English language is “burnt sacrifice” – but the Hebrew term Shoah means catastrophe. It is clear why Jewish people and Israelis all over the world use the term Shoah.
Fascinating is Yom HaShoah’s place on the calendar, as it marks the day of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. Written about in history books and created into a film, the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising was a month long battle between the Warsaw Ghetto and Nazi Regime in Poland. Facing a genocidal military, the Warsaw Ghetto had little more than homemade weapons - snuck in through the underground. Nevertheless, it took the Nazis a month to take the Ghetto, and simply two weeks to overthrow the entire country of Poland; leaving the world to contemplate if more could have been done by humanity to stop the slaughter. It is important to note, that this is a distinct case, as many Jews did not have the ability to gain any type of weaponry. Earlier in the war, the Jewish communities were not aware of the atrocities occurring in other countries. By the time they were aware, borders closed and no country would come to their defense. The United States and other nations put a quota on how many Jews could enter during the Second World War. Israel, a strong independent nation, has chosen to recognize the incredible bravery of the little Warsaw Ghetto facing the final solution by placing Yom HaShoah on the day of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.
So, how is all of this commemorated? Countries hold educational events, the last survivors are dying, and many are trying to hear their stories first hand before we have no option left. The current generation will likely be the last to hear the stories from the survivors themselves. Common are memorial candle lightings for the perished. There is a tradition amongst some teenage organizations to read the names of all six million who perished. The communities also press the public to recall gypsies, LGBT, Jehovah’s witnesses and other groups were persecuted as well, totaling an estimate of 12 million individuals murdered under the Nazi regime.
This article was written in remembrance of Mireille Knoll, who survived Auschwitz. On __ March 2018, she was stabbed and murdered in an anti-Semitic hate crime in Paris, France by her neighbor who immigrated from a country in the East, where government’s often spew propaganda against religious minorities. This article is an effort to educate and combat hatred.
By Melissa Ariella Sherman