This week at work, the grade 4 students performed a ceremony for Remembrance day, also called Yom Hazikaron in Hebrew. I was so moved by their beautiful words and gentle lyrics. As their voices resonated in my head, I remembered being in Poland, in 2008, sitting on dirt, in what use to be a concentration camp. I listened to a true story told by a Holocaust survivor.
She began as such: “The Nazis ordered all the women in the camp to line up side by side. We got up and obeyed. We stood in the snow, some barefoot, and it was freezing. Those who didn’t obey, were shot without any remorse. If you shivered or moved, the Nazis shot at you. As the Nazis killed, there were bodies bleeding and laying in the snow and they didn’t show any guilt. As more women got shot, I made myself fall down and I laid down slowly, in the freezing snow, pretending to be dead. I was laying under a pile of dead women for hours. I was crying quietly and felt so scared to be found and killed. Hours later, when the Nazis left all of these dead bodies to perish without any feelings of penitence, I slowly got up. With barely any sensation left in my body, I was able to escape through a small whole in the metal fence that surrounded the concentration camp. I ran as fast as I could until I passed train tracks and jumped onto a wagon and hid until it seemed safe to come out”.
As I do not remember the end of the story, I remember how I felt that day. How sad, scared and angry I was for this holocaust survivor and for all the people who had to succumb such suffering. I told myself it was not fair. How could some people be so cruel? How can Hitler, just one man, have the power to eradicate people for being Jewish, gipsies, homosexuals, etc. It was inhuman and inimaginable atrocities. My eyes, filled up with tears, gazed at her as I listened attentively to her story. I could not believe what I was hearing. She spoke with such grace even though her lips were shaking. I admired her for having the strength to share such horrific memories that haunt her until today. These images will forever scar her, but she raised awareness so we NEVER FORGET.
As I replayed this memory in my mind, I looked at these students singing and I felt proud to be Jewish. I saw a room, full of students and teachers, affected by this tragedy, but knowledgeable about this given subject matter. I knew, in that moment, that we absolutely must us keep talking, learning and teaching about the holocaust in order to educate the next generations.
Yom Hazikaron was indeed a sad day, but a day to honour those who perished. Every year in Israel, a memorial day siren goes off and it is a minute to pause; to remember the soldiers and to reflect. This year, I remembered being in Poland and seing from my own eyes such horror.
As this day is a sad day, it is always followed by a day of happiness: Israel’s 68th birthday, also known as Yom HaAtzmaut in Hebrew. I cried on Remembrance Day, but I smiled on Independence day. On Yom HaAtzmaut we celebrate Israel. We celebrate a holiday for democracy, the Israeli flag and a nation of heroes as our soldiers are the real supermen. It is thanks to their willpower and strength that we have the privilege of living in our holy land. Israel may be a tiny country, but its power is huge. We must never forget what happened back then and each year we must celebrate Israel’s birthday and be thankful for what his country brings to us.
These were my WYSEthoughts this week. What were yours?