my grandmother, that is. a woman who loved to play shop with me, to feed me her twist on new york style cheesecake, who loved to gift me with dolls from poland and the odd teddy bear or two. i remember her warmth, the slightly shrill voice, the woolen clothes and those brown loafers that she loved so much.
but i also remember how i’d catch a version of her that i wasn’t used to - a woman who looked much older, with ghost-white knuckles, and a hardened face that was far too solemn for someone who gave and gave and gave - for someone who deserved so much more than what she was given. i remember how that version of grandma would speak, too. in a hushed voice, speaking in the mousiest of whispers, as if she were a teenager again, trying not to make a peep as she hid with her whole family under the floorboards of a family friend’s home.
i also remember the tears. how they’d just… appear, from nowhere. sometimes they’d just start falling from her face mid-sentence, other times it was when she was looking forlornly out of the large window in the living room that i’d drawn on as a toddler. they were not the same tears she shed as a teenager, after watching her mother be taken away by men who embodied and reveled in pure evil. they were cracks in the wall that my grandmother had built.
then there were those days where i’d catch her looking at her arm, and the faded numbers that had overstayed their welcome there. it was like black paint on a white canvas only that canvas was a person and that paint had not been spilled accidentally, but tattooed into the arm of a young girl who had lost everything but her humanity - something the man who gave her the tattoo never had.
but worst of all, i remember how she’d frantically run about the kitchen to make me a meal when she learned i hadn’t eaten for a day. i asked her why.
“because, bubula, i know what hunger feels like.” she replied. i didnt quite understand the depth of that back then.
like how i didn’t understand the tremor in her hand when we walked past a group of teenage boys who made a hitler joke. how i didnt understand why she had to pull over on the side of the road to sob when she heard that a fellow holocaust survivor had died on the radio.
my grandmother was a fighter and a survivor and she was a woman who was strong as steel and as sweet as honey-dew. she was a woman who gave and gave and gave, a woman who deserved all the stars in the sky and pearls in the sea.
my grandmother was ripped from the arms of her family, she thrown into the deepest pit of hell, and she survived the flames. because my grandmother was a survivor of the holocaust.
Never shall I forget that smoke. … Never shall I forget those flames that consumed my faith forever. Never shall I forget the nocturnal silence that deprived me for all eternity of the desire to live. Never shall I forget those moments that murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to ashes. Never shall I forget these things, even if I were condemned to live as long as God himself.
Elie Wiesel, Night
All the Dachaus must remain standing. The Dachaus, the Belsens, the Buchenwalds, the Auschwitzes—all of them. They must remain standing because they are a monument to a moment in time when some men decided to turn the earth into a graveyard. Into it they shoveled all of their reason, their logic, their knowledge, but worst of all, their conscience, and the moment we forget this, the moment we cease to be haunted by its remembrance, then we become the gravediggers. Something to dwell on and remember…
Rod Serling, The Twilight Zone, “Deaths-Head Revisited”
When Soviet troops arrived at the Auschwitz concentration camp on the 27th of January, 1945, they found roughly 7,500 living prisoners–most of whom were weak, ill, and starving–and hundreds of corpses. Though the camp remained largely in tact, the retreating S.S. had demolished several buildings, including the gas chambers, in an attempt to hide their crimes. Overall, an estimated 1.1 million people were murdered in Auschwitz between 1940 and 1945, making it the most deadly of all the Nazi concentration and extermination camps. The majority of the victims were Jews.
Auschwitz-Birkenau became a museum in 1947, and the UN appointed January 27th as International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Seventy years after its liberation, Auschwitz remains the dominant symbol of the Holocaust
Holocaust survivor salutes American soldier who liberated him from Nazi concentration camp hell in emotional reunion after 70 years
Repost of 2015 story.
This is the poignant moment when a man rescued from the hell he endured at the hands of the Nazis met his saviour and gave him a salute almost 70 years later.
Joshua Kaufman first saluted his rescuer Daniel Gillespie. Then he kissed his hand and finally, he fell to his feet, exclaiming: ‘I have wanted to do this for 70 years. I love you, I love you so much…’.
Kaufman, now 87, was a ‘walking corpse’ on April 29 1945 when U.S. Army soldier Gillespie, 89, marched in with his comrades to liberate the charnel house that was the Dachau concentration camp near Munich.
By the time it was liberated more than 35,000 people had been murdered there - in executions, in cruel medical experiments, starved, worked and beaten to death.
The first person he saw was Hungarian Jewish prisoner Kaufman. He was hiding in the latrines with other prisoners, uncertain if the soldiers who arrived were liberators or a Nazi death squad sent to liquidate the camp.
'We were confined to barracks by the guards. This meant most of us were marked for death,’ Mr Kaufman said.
'Then I saw the white flag flying from the watchtower and I realised then that the torture was at an end. When the Americans smashed in the door, my heart did somersaults.’
Gillespie helped the emaciated prisoner into the daylight and back into the land of the living. Both parted with tears in their eyes - both believed they would never see one another again.
Today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day. I’m more convinced than ever that it could happen here. I’m also convinced that if it were to happen here, the left would not support us.
There have been dozens of bomb threats against Jewish Community Centers in the US these past few weeks. Yet only two of my hundreds of goyische Facebook Friends said anything about it and one only knew because his niece went to pre-school at a JCC. It’s not common knowledge, but JCC’s actually provide services and facilities for non-Jews as well as Jews, including pre-K and daycare. Which meant that one of my FB friends was aware of it without affecting her.
I’ve seen dozens of articles talking about the ethics of protecting Nazis, but I’ve seen virtually nothing outside of the Jewish media about protecting Jews. I’ve heard nothing anywhere about anti-romani racism.
The American Left seems increasingly blind to antisemitism and has grown moreso over the course of my life. Instead, what I’ve seen is an increasing display of Oppression Olympics in which antisemitism seems to constantly lose. The Left doesn’t de-prioritize antisemitism in favor of other issues so much as utterly ignore it.
Indeed, what I see happening is people continually downplaying Nazi antisemitism, despite the Nazis deliberately murdering 6 million Jews during the Holocaust, in favor of universalizing their hatred to include almost anyone except for Jews. I see dozens of repurposings of Niemoller’s “First they came for…” while somehow leaving Jews off the list.
It’s not like there haven’t been dozens of Swastikas painted all over the place since the Trump campaign kicked into high gear. It’s not like we haven’t had to evacuate our children from JCCs over bomb threats. It’s not like Nazis haven’t tried to organize armed marches to threaten Jews in Montana.
So today, on Holocaust Remembrance Day, I’m calling non-Romani goyim out. Stop leaving Jews out. Stop talking around us. Stop lying about fighting antisemitism when you don’t even pay attention to it and ignore our concerns. Antisemitism neither began nor ended with the Holocaust, but the Holocaust shows us what can happen to us when hatred of Jews goes unchecked.
today was also the day that my grandparents, aged 95 and 91, finally decided to get the tattooed serial numbers they received upon arriving at the auschwitz-birkenau concentration camp covered.
seventy four years ago, the numbers ‘108115’ and ‘108117’ were permanently tattooed on their left arm. now, the phrase “sam roma”, written in huge letters, has replaced these godforsaken serial numbers, and honestly, i’ve never been more proud of them. i’ve never been more proud to be romani, either.
the only people that should forget about everything that took place during the holocaust are the people that lived through it.
the rest of the world should always, always, remember.
I spend a lot of time thinking about how my various identities inform my work. They’re a part of me; they can’t not. Being Jewish, I’ve long resisted telling Holocaust stories. We’re so saturated with them, it often feels like writers and directors think that they’re the only stories there are to tell about Jewish people. It’s so important to me to tell Jewish stories that are NOT about the Holocaust. However, in this current climate, Holocaust narratives feel more important than ever. For all people claim to be oversaturated with Holocaust stories, there’s a shocking lack of knowledge out there about what caused the Holocaust and why Jewish people were targeted in the first place.
More importantly (to me, at least) is that whatever Holocaust stories I choose to tell feature Jewish people at the center of the story. I have no desire to see anymore movies told through the eyes of a German bystander or righteous gentile. Those stories are fine, but they’ve been told. I want Holocaust narratives that show Jewish people as more than victims. I want a movie about Gisella Pearl, abortion doctor of Auschwitz. I want a four part mini-series about Chanah Senesz and her heroic time in captivity. Give me a play about Jewish women who joined the partisans and the French Resistance. I want stories about the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and the Sobibor uprising.
In general, I want to see Jewish people at the center of our own stories, but it’s particularly important when it comes to the Holocaust. It is such an important story in Jewish history, and yet it feels like, in film and television, it has been taken away from us. With the last few Holocaust narratives I’ve seen, it’s felt like we were no longer the heroes in our own story. I won’t contribute to that.
Never, ever, ever forget the pain and torture these people went through just for being ‘different’ in the eyes of a regime. Tell your children, grandchildren and even great-grandchildren all about these survivors. Let their stories live forever. We will always honour their bravery.
They say that if we had one moment of silence for every victim of the Holocaust, we would be silent for almost eleven and a half years - and that would only be the silence in remembrance of the Jewish victims of the Shoah. If we include the non-Jewish victims, the Poles, Germans, Russians, Gypsies, homosexuals, asocials, intelligentsia, mentally and physically disabled, and many others… We would be silent for more than twenty years.
A majority of these people had done nothing wrong, aside from being born in the wrong place at the wrong time. Most were not criminals, although the leaders of the Third Reich labeled them as such. They were regular people. Mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, daughters, and sons. They were teachers, doctors, lawyers, bakers, homemakers, businessmen, and farmers. Yet they were swept up in the storm of Nazi Germany, without a clue of their fate until it was right in front of them. And we remember them by saying, “Never Again.”
To say “Never Again” regarding the Holocaust seems like a no-brainer. Of course we would not let a government persecute millions of people, forcing them into hard labor and inhumane conditions, let alone into gas chambers or in front of firing squads.
Today, a repeat of the Holocaust - or something like it, on that large of a scale - feels just about impossible. We have media - especially the social kind - to thank for that. I don’t know anyone who would sit by silently and livestream their neighbors being rounded up and put on trains to an unknown destination. Or at least I hope we wouldn’t. Maybe that is where I see the problem with saying, “Never Again.” We say it with such ease and hope, but is it really true? Did we mean “Never Again” when we watched Rwanda on TV?
Am I certain that my neighbors, coworkers, and classmates would stand up for me, if I was the next to be persecuted? Am I sure they would not allow me to be taken away and lost to the pages of history? Again, I hope so. I hope that we have come far enough and our world is filled with enough global citizens to not let something as atrocious and tragic as the Holocaust occur again. I would love nothing more to say I know that to be true. But how can I know that when a majority of newscasts focus on negativity, violence, and hatred? How can I trust that when there are people who wish bad things upon others, simply because they do not agree on something? As Martin Niemöller’s poem goes….
“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out — Because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out — Because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out — Because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”
Perhaps this is why I believe the messages of the Holocaust and its survivors are so important. While those men and women whose entire families were taken away from them would have every right to be bitter and spiteful, almost all of their memoirs or oral histories are filled with forgiveness, compassion, and - like Anne Frank wrote in her diary - a belief that people are still good. Eva Kor forgave Dr. Josef Mengele for his experiments on her and her twin sister, even though she didn’t have to. Some may say this is naive, because why should people who were by all accounts twisted and horrible be forgiven? Why should we believe that people are still good when they can commit such crimes against humanity?
Survivors of the Holocaust and their descendants remind us that there is more strength in forgiveness and compassion than in hatred and violence. Elie Wiesel tells us that the opposite of love is not hate, but indifference. To be a bystander is sometimes worse than being a perpetrator. To ignore the crime can be as bad as committing it. To be silent is unacceptable.
As I remember the Holocaust today, I remember not only the victims who perished, but those who went on to live and give a voice for those who were silenced by the terror of the Third Reich. We cannot have a moment of silence for every victim of the Holocaust, and perhaps we should not. Why? Because they would not want us to be silent. They would want us to speak and speak loudly for those who are unable to be heard themselves.
(Photo credit and author: Katrina Stack,
B.A. History from University of Michigan-Dearborn, Social Media Manager at the Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive)
Today is the International Holocaust Remembrance Day. On January 27 1945, the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp was liberated by Soviet troops.
The above image shows just some of the thousands upon thousands of wedding rings confiscated by the Nazis from victims of the Holocaust. These rings were found by US troops after liberating Buchenwald in 1945.
27 January: International Holocaust Remembrance Day
On this day we honour and remember the approximately 22 million innocent souls who fell victims to hate racism and prejudice crimes, nearly 7.5 million of which were slaughtered for being who they were.
6 million Jews (1.5 million of which were children)
1.5 million Romani
270 000 People with disabilities (be it physical or mental)
55 000 gay people (approximately)
14 million civilians, caught in the crossfire, famine and ugliness of war from all over Europe.
12 000 Jehova’s Witnesses (approximately) of which 2 500 - 5 000 killed.
This day is an important reminder of what once was and what should never be again.
May their rest be more peaceful than their life and may their memory be a blessing.