Today marks Yom HaShoah -- Holocaust Remembrance Day. I know the blogosphere will be crawling with posts dedicated to family members lost, to the feelings surrounding the day, to the horror and catastrophe that happened so many years ago, and the continued fear of "what if?"
I'm not melodramatic when it comes to the Shoah, and I don't want my readers to think I'm nuts. But the question of "what if?" is not so far-fetched. Insanity, after all, as Einstein said is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. If you think about history, there have been plenty of large-scale attempts at destruction of the Jewish people, going back to the Babylonian Exile and ranging through the first crusades through the Rhine and on into the Holocaust. In between, the world has been peppered with pogroms, blood libel, and just plain killing Jews for the sake of killing them. You'll also recall that during the First Revolt that led up to the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE, you had Jews (Zealots) killing other Jews en masse.
We're no strangers to death on a large scale.
My "what if?" comes with the additional "people don't learn and continue the path of destruction aimed at the Jewish people?" I don't think it's so outlandish. It's why I don't understand why there are Jews who presently don't think about or support the State of Israel. Worse comes to worse, I'm cutting a rug and b-lining to Israel.
I've often said that the Shoah is probably the hardest thing for a convert to connect to when it comes to Jews and Judaism. There are converts who discover long-lost lineage stepping back to the Shoah, family members who went into hiding for fear of death at the hands of Nazis or others because they were Jewish. Generations later, the truth comes out and a grandchild or great-grandchild returns to the family roots. For those of us with no roots, however, it's difficult. But I'm marrying into a memory.
Tuvia's grandmother (as well as her two surviving sisters) experienced the atrocities of the Shoah, losing their parents and other siblings, as well as other relatives, while suffering the horrors of Auschwitz and other camps. They survived, but at a cost that is unbelievably great. One sister had her physical and emotional abilities disabled, another spoke out about her experiences and Tuvia and I plan on watching the video, which we ordered from the Shoah Project, this evening -- he's never seen it. His grandmother doesn't talk about/remember her experiences during the war, despite being a teenager. I know it's horrifying, and it's almost like the affect of the car accident -- you just want to know and hear the details, to know what family went through. I want to know their story, so our children and their children will not forget what happened. The moment we forget, that's when insanity kicks in.
History, after all, repeats, repeats, repeats.
Be well and today, if only for a moment, think about the sheer volume of those killed. Think about those 6 million Jews who died, as well as those 2-3 million Soviet POWs, 1.8-2 million ethnic Poles, 1.5 million Romani, 200,000 disabled, 80,000 Freemasons, 5,000-15,000 homosexuals, and 2,500-5,000 Jehovah's witnesses that were killed for being exactly who they were.
The True Story of Hansel and Gretel" by Lousie Murphy, which is a fictional account of two small children, dropped by their father and step-mother at the edge of a forest in Poland while running from the Nazis. The children end up in a village, taken in by a "witch" (who, as it turns out, was a gypsy!), and the parents join the resistance. The story is woven wonderfully, with vivid imagery and a horrific tale about what went on in the village of the woman who harbored these children until the liberation. If anything, the book is graphic and ultimately apologetic to the Polish cause. Portions of the book feel forced (an incident post-war by a Pole lashing out at a Jew, for example), but overall it's a vivid and horrifying tale of what could have gone on in the story of any child left to the mercy of a kind, gypsy soul. The apologetic nature of the book bothered me, and it was pretty blunt in its representation of the Poles as purely victims. For me, with the story "Neighbors: The Destruction of the Jewish Community in Jedwabne" by Jan T. Gross always clear in my mind, I find it difficult to relate to the "victimless" Polish village.