” Holocaust Remembrance Day (Yom HaShoah) is set aside for remembering the victims of the Holocaust and for reminding all people of what can happen when bigotry, hatred and indifference reign. ”

When I was a young teenager I use to have these vivid dreams, dreams that I was on a train, a cold damp crowded train, headed for a concentration camp, terrified, knowing that only death awaited me.

It is on this day, at sundown, that Jewish people everywhere, take a moment, and reflect on the utter devastation of the Holocaust. It is an opportunity to remember those who died, not just the Jews, but the millions of others who perished in the death camps, and to honor their memory by not allowing another genocide to occur. But sadly, the world has not learned. We have the examples of Cambodia, Rwanda, and the most recent atrocities in Darfur.

Last night, tears gently rolling down my cheeks, I sat quietly, alone, and watched a wonderful Hallmark movie about a brave woman, Irena Sendler. Risking her life, she saved 2,500 Jewish Polish children in the Warsaw Ghetto. It was an amazing story to watch. Having been to the Holocaust Musuem in D.C. several times, I will never understand the evil that lurks within human beings. The horror of Germany was that it was a modern society, steeped in culture and science.

Irena Sendler stands as a testament to the good that can reside within us. Torture and threat of death, could not break her resolve to protect the children, and the brave families who risked their lives to hide them from the Nazi’s. She was an ordinary person, brave enough, to do the extraordinary.

Today, even in the 21st century, you still have Holocaust deniers, like the President of Iran, who proclaimed at the U.N. Conference in Switzerland, “the state of Israel had been founded “on the pretext of Jewish suffering” during the Second World War.”

Around 20 delegates, including envoys from the UK, France, Canada and Finland stood up and left the room at what was considered an anti-Semitic remark by the Iranian leader, who has repeatedly called for Israel to be wiped off the map.

69 Thoughts to “Holocaust Rememberance Day, begins sundown today.”

  1. Moon-howler

    Where is the Korean War Memorial? I have not been able to find it.

    I find WWII to be the most meaningful memorial to me.

  2. Moon-howler

    I am smiling at you guys over the Yiddish. Yiddish words really have become commonplace amongst Gentiles–to the point that many people don’t recognize them as Yiddish.

    I got tickled at Gainesville talking about his parents not wanting the kids to know what they were saying so they spoke Yiddish. My parents did the same thing but used French. I guess they both took it in school. I never knew what they were talking about.

    The detail is amazing in those panels. The fact that you can even almost tell the story of what is happening is amazing. I also like the different words carved into the stone…famous quotes I guess.

    Did you say your grandfather fought in WWI for this country? That War Memorial is in horrible shape. I heard from a friend it was going to be refurbished. It is really a national disgrace in its present shape.

  3. Gainesville Resident

    Yes, my grandfather was a soldier in the US Army fighting in Germany during WWI. I actually don’t remember the WWI Memorial. The Korean War Memorial, I thought it was off on one side walking back from the Lincoln Memorial to the WWII Memorial, but I might be wrong about that. It has been a 2 or 3 years since I’ve been there.

  4. Gainesville Resident

    I see Ahmadinejad is at it again, saying “Israel is a paragon of racism founded on the pretext of Jewish sufferings during World War II”. Then he goes on to say “Following World War II,” he continued, according to an official English-language text of his remarks, “they resorted to military aggression to make an entire nation homeless, on the pretext of Jewish sufferings and the ambiguous and dubious question of the Holocaust.” This at a UN conference on racism! I’m glad the US and other countries have chosen to sit out this conference – the last time they had the same conference in 2001, it also turned into an attack on Israel.

    The Washington Post article about this is at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/04/20/AR2009042000145.html?hpid=sec-world

  5. Elena

    Thanks for posting this Gainesville! “Ambiguous and dubious question of the Holocaust”, he not only denegrates the Jewish people, he insults all the other millions who died in concentration camps. He also defiles the memory of people, like Irena, who risked her life, to save innocent human beings.

  6. Bob Pugh

    This thread got me thinking about some experiences I’ve had over the years, and I want to share some observations with everyone. I visited Auschwitz also, walked under the “Arbeit Macht Frei” gate, and saw the ovens, the suitcases, glasses, hair and other remnants of the Nazi atrocities. I witnessed apartheid in South Africa firsthand and visited the Soviet Union at the apex of communist power. The common factors in all three of these historical abominations were the growth of unrestrained government power, and citizens’ willingness to allow government to take away their rights in exchange for material comfort.

    While working as a US Foreign Service Officer in Germany during the eighties I was able to get to know many Germans well and discuss their attitudes and memories of the Nazi era. Two examples still stand out in my mind.

    First, the mother of a good friend was a young adult during Hitler’s rule. Her attitude was never to defend the atrocities, but to make excuses by saying that Hitler did good things also such as building the autobahn and putting people back to work. Second, I took a history course on the Nazi leadership with an American friend from the Embassy in Germany’s equivalent of a community college continuing education program. We wanted to improve our German language skills and learn more about German attitudes. The class discussions always boiled down to the older generation citing Hitler’s improvements to their standard of living in the thirties and denying any knowledge of the Holocaust while it was going on, and the younger generation refusing to believe that their elders had known nothing of the atrocities.

    In both cases, the attitude of those who had lived under Hitler was their rationalization that he had made their material and economic lives better, at least during the thirties. However, they had tacitly accepted the growing totalitarianism that came along with their renewed comfort.

    In South Africa, also working as a US Foreign Service Officer in the eighties and travelling on a diplomatic passport, I had free access to the townships, including Soweto. I lived in the Johannesburg suburb of Parktown North, one of the wealthiest communities in South Africa, in a nice home behind a wall. I saw the disparities and the squalid living conditions of black South Africans, and knew more about apartheid and the townships than did the vast majority of white South Africans, who sometimes even refused to admit that the townships existed.

    I met people at the opposite extremes of evil and good. Once at a barbeque at an upper-class home in a white suburb, over a glass of very nice South African wine, an Afrikaner told me that, if necessary, the apartheid government should exterminate the blacks as Hitler did the Jews. He meant that comment very seriously.

    At the other end of the spectrum, were some of the greatest opportunities of my life when I twice accompanied US civil rights leaders visiting South Africa to meet with Bishop Tutu at his bishopric in Johannesburg. We were there for hours listening to and conversing with Bishop Tutu, who was so unpretentious that he had just thrown his recently won Nobel Peace Prize on his sofa rather than display it ostentatiously. As we all know now, the Bishop led the peace and reconciliation movement that declined to prosecute those such as the man who would have sent him to a gas chamber.

    The cause of the problems again, as I saw so clearly, was a group of people who enjoyed material comfort and privilege, and allowed a totalitarian government to grow out of control in order to maintain their status.

    Finally, as a graduate student in the summer of 1980, I visited Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. Communism arose because of its promise to deliver material goods to people “according to their needs” in exchange for their freedom. The result of decades of communist rule were evident everywhere. Multiple families were crowded into small, one-bedroom apartments. On Red Square, the “luxury” department store featured as its prime offerings to consumers cans of tuna fish and jars of jelly, while the stores catering to communist party leaders and foreign tourists with hard currency were as opulent as any in the West.

    The historical record is also clear on the atrocities that resulted from Russians and others in the former Soviet empire surrendering their liberty to a totalitarian regime. The communists, in particular Stalin, were as murderous as the Nazis. Nazi concentration camps and Soviet gulags are both morally abhorrent.

    Benjamin Franklin said, “Those who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” Ronald Reagan said, “Man is not free unless government is limited…. As government expands liberty contracts.”

    Holocaust Remembrance Day is a good time to reflect not only on the atrocities the Nazis inflicted on the Jews, but also on the consequences throughout history of people surrendering their liberty to a totalitarian government in exchange for a little personal security or material comfort.

    Most Americans do not realize how blessed we are. We’ve never had to suffer under Nazism or Communism. We abolished slavery, finally, and have been addressing the legitimate issues of the civil rights movement rather than creating an apartheid system here. I didn’t vote for President Obama but appreciate the fact that his election demonstrates that social attitudes in our nation have improved dramatically since I was born in the 1950s.

    Remember also Benjamin Franklin’s response to Mrs. Powel outside Independence Hall after the Constitutional Convention of 1787 adjourned. She asked him, “Well, Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?” Franklin responded immediately, “A republic, if you can keep it.”

  7. Gainesville Resident

    The only thing dubious in my mind is Ahmadinejad’s connection with reality. Ambiguous is a good one – does he mean it is ambiguous that millions and millions of people were sent to the concentration camps and killed? I’m glad a bunch of nations walked out of the meeting when he made these statements, and even more refused to attend in the first place due to the fact he would be a speaker there.

  8. Moon-howler

    He really is making a jackass of himself. He probably also says we crashed our own planes into the Pentagon and WTC, or is that another group of braying jackasses?

  9. Elena

    Hi Bob,
    Thank you for investing so much thought in your post and for sharing so much of your personal experiences. I truly appreciate it.

  10. Lucky Duck

    Mr. Pugh, excellent post. Thank you.

  11. GainesvilleResident

    MH, wouldn’t surprise me if Ahmadinejad has some nutty theory about 9/11 too. Then again there’s plenty of people here in the USA that have nutty theories about that one! Actually, in my previous job believe it or not the day after 9/11 this idiot I worked with sent an e-mail to everyone in the group that said basically that Jews were warned beforehand about the WTC attack and most Jews were not present in the building at the time! I was pretty unhappy with an e-mail sent on a company e-mail account to that effect, and talked to management about it. They did not really take any action against said individual. Long story short, a month later I quit that job and eventually landed at my present job which was a huge positive move for me, both in quality of work, work environment in general, and salary too. Still, I was really unhappy with management, and on leaving I wrote a letter to the division VP about this, but never got a response. Oh well. As I said, there’s plenty of nuts here in the USA with their own crazy theories about 9/11.

  12. GainesvilleResident

    I should also say, I purposely timed my quitting of the job to 10/11 just to make the point about why I was resigning.

  13. Elena

    You hear these stories about the “Jewish Conspiracy”, and wonder, who believes that trash, and to think that you actually worked with someone who did….crazy!

  14. GainesvilleResident

    Yes, it is hard to believe I ran into one of those types. I don’t know how people convince themselves of these ideas. The person in question was fairly clueless about other things too, so I shouldn’t have been surprised when he spouted that theory on a corporate e-mail account.

  15. Moon-howler

    UFB! That is amazing that someone would do that on the company email. What a jerk. I would have written a letter of complaint also. I can’t believe they didn’t respond to you, Gainesville.

    Furthermore, the logic of it all it totally stupid. Jewish Conspiracy?? How many jews were killed that day? I think of some of those companies we read or heard about on tv…..What was the one firm where so many people killed were Jewish? Was it Cantor-Fitzgerald? I can’t recall which company it was now.

    People of every religion and every race and nationality were killed that day. Too bad the jerk was too steeped in ignorance to realize that. I hope they fired him and just didn’t tell you.

  16. Gainesville Resident

    Well, unfortunately I didn’t print the e-mail out, so when I left the company I had no real record of it. Maybe if I had sent a copy of the e-mail to someone high up in the company while I was still there, it might have made a difference. Then again, I was at the point where I decided I didn’t want to work with a person like that. I’m sure the WTC had the normal distribution of religions there that day – compared to NYC as a whole. That theory is just as far out there as other crazy 9/11 theories. In my current company, we get yearly training on what is allowed and not allowed in company e-mail, and are urged to report anything that could be an embarrassment to the company. I have a feeling that if it had happened here, it would have been handled quite differently. In any event, it worked out well for me career wise – I wouldn’t have done nearly as well if I had stayed at that company.

  17. Moon-howler

    Maybe you should send the guy a thank you note. He did you a favor then. Rocked you from your complacency and got you to move onward and upward to better things. That’s one way to look at it. The jerks are out there for a reason.

  18. Gainesville Resident

    Yep, it’s true I wouldn’t have left if it weren’t for him. But he’s the last person I want to get back in contact with, even though I did discover he had a facebook page which upon looking at it, confirmed he is just as clueless as he was 7 years ago. No crazy 9/11 theories, but other stupid stuff on there.

  19. Moon-howler

    Stupidity is probably incurable.

    That is wonderful that you made a career move for the better-your better.

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