This is the month and the time Jews rethink our modern history from year to year. It is a stunning moment for thinking Jews when the annual Holocaust remembrance is upon us.
Well, it is upon us, again – and again and again and again we will recall the extermination of our people and the rebirth of the remaining Jewish people in the State of Israel following the slaughter in Europe.
The slaughter in Europe wasn’t simply the attempted extermination of our people.
It was the utter obliteration of the Jewish nation in Eastern Europe, the theft, starvation, and destruction of our schools, the erasure of our language and culture, the ravaging of our cities and towns before the fait accompli for our people – the Final Solution – Hitler’s demented plan to free Europe of Jewish influence by sending Jewish ash and dust pouring out of chimneys into the sky and spreading it to the far reaches of the earth.
The Holocaust was different for us. Jews weren’t simply slaughtered and exterminated to get rid of the adult population. The Nazis also killed Jewish children so there could not be a next generation. The slaughter of Jewish men, women and children, all of them stripped of their clothing and possessions, indeed, stripped of nearly everything having to do with their humanity, before they were beaten and starved until they perished at the hands of brutal killers whose debauchery and viciousness had no boundaries, is one of the most twisted stories of the 20th Century.
The prosecutors at the Nuremburg Trials following the war articulated time and again how there was no basic standard of measure or expression to quantify in human terms the enormity of the Nazi slaughter of the Jews – and of others.
For instance, they said it was impossible to understand how 37,771 men, women and children were executed, shot in the back of the head by Einsatzgruppen death squads in 1941 at Babi Yar in two days; that it was and is incomprehensible to the human mind how such numbers could be killed in so short a time and buried in long pits dug out of the earth in the forest. Yet the exterminations went on and on and on until six million were gone and Jewish life destroyed.
It was all possible and it all happened to Jews across Europe until Europe was nearly devoid of Jews – and this was only 75 years ago.
The ovens were still warm. The piles of Jewish ash stood high. The dead were strewn everywhere in 50 concentration camps when the Allies liberated the death camps.
We must never forget this tragedy in all its horror.
Let us say our prayers for the millions who died.
And let’s say prayers of hope for all Jews alive everywhere.
And let us all pledge: Never Again.