The cataclysmic event of the Holocaust is seminal in modern history. April 28th, Nisan 27, is Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. On this day the State of Israel honors the victims and heroes of the Holocaust. It is a difficult day in Israel and one in which every Jewish citizen feels the weight of 6 million souls.
From the years 1933-1945 6 million Jews were purposely and systematically murdered at the hands of the Nazis. It was not by happenstance of war did their deaths occur. The Nazis assumed they had the right to decide who had permission to live, and who did not. It was their intention to exterminate the entire Jewish population; this unfathomable fact cannot be mistaken.
Before the Holocaust European Jewry numbered about 9 million, the Holocaust reduced the number by 2/3. It is a figure that is difficult to comprehend. It seems so improbable, yet it is the reality. However, because the facts and figures are extraordinary, in remembering the Holocaust we need to go beyond this. We need to go deeper in our understanding.
For decades Holocaust educators have been grappling with how to teach about the Holocaust. They are trying to find a way to connect today's youth to a world that was eradicated, a concept utterly alien to young people now. It is a challenge that institutions such as Yad VaShem in Jerusalem and the US Holocaust Museum Memorial in Washington, DC take very seriously.
Remembering the Holocaust should not just be about a moment of silence once a year on a date the world cannot agree upon. While these days of remembrance are vitally important to Holocaust education and the fundamental notion to "never forget", they should not occur in isolation.
The Holocaust needs to be grasped through individual memories and accounts. We need to learn about those who chose to fight, those who suffered in silence and those who faced impossible choices. We need to approach these stories with an open heart as we can never truly understand the circumstances individuals, families and communities faced. Our minds and our souls should grapple with these dilemmas and consequent actions, approaching them with thoughtfulness and empathy.
For the Jewish nation the Holocaust is a wound that is still raw and which may never heal. As a nation and as individuals we all lost a part of ourselves. Remembering the Holocaust is the world's responsibility, not just a Jewish one. It is up to each one of us to commit to furthering the memory of those who died and to revering the legacy of the survivors.
We encourage you to read and watch videos of survivors' testimonies, learn about the political and social circumstances that enabled the Holocaust to happen, visit Holocaust memorials and post on social media and your blogs about importance to never forget.
Each of us will be affected and touched by the Holocaust in a different way. We hope the cumulative crucial result is that this tragedy will never be allowed to happen again – with the Jewish people or any others. The only way to guarantee this is to learn, educate, keep the memories alive and never forget.