Why devote nearly an entire issue of the Jewish Exponent to stories about the Holocaust? If you read the stories, you will understand why.
They are stories of local players who acted heroically to save Jewish children, of reconciliation between young Germans and Jews, of the ability of the arts to capture the human element of the young and the old who experienced the trauma, how they suffered and how they persevered.
Sometimes it seems that too many precious communal resources are expended on building Holocaust memorials and focusing on Holocaust education. Sometimes “Never Forget” devolves into an oversimplified, meaningless expression.
But paying tribute to the Six Million who died and taking to heart the lessons from the most brutal chapter in Jewish history demands our attention year after year, particularly as we observe Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, which this year falls on April 8.
Holocaust stories are nothing new. We’ve been hearing them, reading them and watching them for decades. Yet each one seems more incredible than the next, especially those that come directly from the mouths of survivors. Twenty years after Schindler’s List, the seminal Steven Spielberg film that catapulted the genre to the mainstream market, a survivor from that list will be in town talking to students at the Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy.
But now, 68 years after World War II ended, the number of survivors continues to dwindle each year; only a few hundred are believed left in our area alone.
As Jews, we have the responsibility to remember and to act — to carry forth the lessons we have learned about perseverance in the face of evil, about heroism against all odds, about what can happen when ordinary people stand by and let discrimination, bigotry and genocide take root.
Throughout the years, one local community-wide event has paid tribute to the victims of the Holocaust. The event, taking place this year on Sunday, April 7, at 1 p.m., at 16th Street and the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, will feature state legislators who co-sponsored recently introduced legislation that will mandate Holocaust and Genocide education for middle and high students in the state.
Education about the Holocaust is important for everyone, not just Jews. But for us, the theme of this year’s memorial is especially poignant. “I Don’t Live in the Past but the Past Lives On in Me” applies both to our survivors and our children, who must grapple with this history and make it a part — not all, but a part — of who they are as proud Jews.