History tells us that the Holocaust ended with the liberation of Jews from death camps, ghettos and Nazi occupation in 1945. Over 70 years later, we are left with only about 100,000 survivors. We will soon have no survivors left. So, what is Israel doing to insure the memory of the Holocaust does not fade?
Many initiatives have been launched to provide opportunities for younger generations to “connect” with the Holocaust. For example:
- 30,000 Israeli students per year go to Poland on special educational tours. They tour death camps such as Auschwitz, ghettos such as those in Krakow, and Nazi command centers, all of which are now defunct, but stand in memoriam of the terrible oppression foisted upon the Jewish people.
- IDF officers travel to Poland to experience first-hand the evidence of the Nazi war machine’s devastation.
- Survivors and film crews are going back to places of their origins in order to film their stories. They are trained how to tell their story in a way that will engage an audience and help them understand the atrocities.
One of the key purposes of the films is to burn in the minds of all who see that those victimized during the Holocaust were real people, with real names and with real lives. Thus, the survivors talk about who they were with and the conversations they had when things were good. They describe who helped them and how. For those who had families, it is encouraged that they tell us about their children’s activities and family gatherings.
Their stories include their return to life. For many, the reality was “liberated, but not free.” Consider this: once free, where could they go? How would they leave? Most had been transported to camps far away and often in a different country. They were stripped of all possessions, many were starved and they had no means of travel. Against that backdrop, survivors are asked to tell their story of returning to life, and how.
Survivors may also pass along a message they want others to hear. For many, their will to live becomes a tremendous encouragement for their fellow countrymen and those of us who are sympathetic to their cause. These recorded testimonies are becoming the primary verbal record of life during the Holocaust.
These testimonies are preserved on Yad Vashem’s “The Voice of the Survivors” page. Why not take a few minutes to hear a survivor’s story? (I’ll share Mordecai’s story with you tomorrow!)