International Holocaust Remembrance Day

Saturday, 28 January 2012

holocaust memorial

Before me sits a young woman. I cut off her hair, thick and beautiful, and she grasps my hand and begs me to remember that I too am a Jew. She knows that she is lost. 'But remember,' she says, 'you see what is being done to us. That's why my wish for you is that you will survive and take revenge for our innocent blood, which will never rest.' She has not had time to get up when a murderer who is walking between the benches lashes her on the head with his whip. Blood shows on her now shorn head. That evening, the blood of tens of thousands of victims, unable to rest, thrust itself upwards to the surface.

—From The Last Jew of Treblinka by Chil Rajchman.

Yesterday was International Holocaust Remembrance Day. In the moments right before sleep last night, I thought of a particular interview I had with a Holocaust survivor, who is also a family friend. I still have the tape with his interview. He told me a few weeks after this interview that he had confided in me things he had never even shared with his wife. I was so very young. I still am quite young, but then, I was really just a baby barely out of high school. I wasn't prepared for the full emotional responsibility of being confided in such a manner. But I accepted it, I wanted to prove to him that I was worthy of his confidence, worthy to tell his story because he could not.

I'm scared by what will happen when people like him are no longer around to confide. I'm scared too by what will happen when people like me who have heard and transcribed survivors' stories are no longer around to share them. But most of all, I'm scared by how the Holocaust is brandished as an ideological weapon, by strong waves of neo-Nazism and the belittling of Holocaust survivors in political debates around the world. Yet, I still remain optimistic because I'm heartened by people who care.

There are more eloquent words than mine being written on Holocaust Remembrance Day, and I'll leave you with a few of them:

: : Light a Candle

: : Mehdi Hasan's Article

: : The Courage to Speak Up

: : A Stand Against Neo-Nazism

: : A Holocaust Survivor Shares his Story

Image credit: Holocaust Memorial in Berlin.


megan said...

i echo your fears about what will happen when holocaust survivors and the people they've told their stories too aren't here anymore, hila. so well-said, as always.

i had the chance to meet and interview elie wiesel last year and he is a light; it's hard to imagine the world without him and his stories and his hope.

Accidentalwriter said...

thanks for this post Hila. i'm ashamed to say I was unaware of the International Holocaust Remembrance Day. it is this type of ignorance/lack of awareness which may be totally innocent and unintentional - and yet many excuses were made all those years ago - it is not acceptable for me to be trying to find them now. i greatly appreciate you highlighting this incredibly significant day and will ensure I never forget it from now on.

Gracia said...

"Yet, I still remain optimistic because I'm heartened by people who care." So hard to do sometimes, but so very true.


RetreatingAndAdvancing said...

What a sad day in our history!
Like Jeff, I wasn't aware of the Remembrance Day. Thanks for sharing and remembering!

Hila said...

First up, thank you for commenting on this post - most people tend to shy away from the topic. And secondly, with regard to the comments about not knowing about this memorial day, I just thought I should add: since 2005, 27 of January is the annual date for International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which is also the date that Auschwitz-Birkenau was liberated.

Appallingly, I didn't hear or see one mention of the day in the commercial television news yesterday here in Western Australia. But if some celebrity was divorcing their spouse, or if there was some sports news, well, that would have been deemed 'important' enough to be in the news. Just goes to show what the priorities are these days. It was probably covered in Europe and America though.

Chapter 9 said...

Mmm, very sad to say I too didn't realise it was on the 27th - & don't remember any mention of it in our media here in the UK - & have to say I'm shocked by this lack of coverage!
I was wondering how your interview with your family friend came about - did you publish it? I'd love to read it.
I don't comment much, but I love your blog - it's always so insightful & eloquently written.
p.s can we have another poem soon? :)

Sasha said...

I've read this a little late but I wanted to comment because this is something far too important to ignore. As long as people are willing to pass on the stories they have heard there will always be people who care. As an Anishinaabe woman (Native American), I feel this to be inherently the truth and there are strong and determined hearts, such as yourself, who will refuse to let the world forget or make light of the Holocaust. Those are just my late thoughts to this important post.

Rambling Tart said...

I'm so glad you were brave enough to listen to this man's story. I can only imagine how much it meant to him to have a listening, caring ear - no matter how young you were. My relatives fought in the Resistance in Denmark and I'm so proud of what they did to rescue and save lives.

Hila said...

Megan: it must have been an honour to meet him, I can't think of a person I respect more.

Accidentalwriter/RetreatingAndAdvancing: considering how little coverage there is on the news about this, I don't think you can be blamed for not knowing about it. I really appreciate you making the effort though.

Gracia: yes, it is hard - but what else can we do?

Chapter 9: that's sad to hear, so it didn't get much coverage in the UK either? I mean, come one, the UK was the allies! Sigh. I didn't publish it, the interview went to a Holocaust museum. And yes, I just posted another poem today :)

Sasha: it's never ever too late, thanks for this.

Rambling Tart: I'm not sure it was courage on my part - it was definitely courage on his part. It was quite difficult for him to talk about it. He cried all the way through. I would be proud of your relatives too!

Chuck said...

I'm scared too.

Hila said...

Chuck: yep.