Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Holocaust Memorial Day

Hebrew: Yom Hasho’ah- יוֹם הַשׁוֹאָה

Challenging times, such as we're enduring now,  befall humankind periodically. Unlike our current global trial, some are utterly of our own making.

Israel observes Holocaust Memorial Day on the anniversary of the brave and doomed Jewish uprising of those who remained in the Warsaw ghetto. The dates were April 19-May 23, 1943. It is an attempt to paint the catastrophe not only in terms of annihilation, but recognize the enormous heroism of the perished and the survivors. Thus, the day’s full name is Holocaust and Heroism Remembrance Day.

All over Israel, this commemoration happened today. Every year on this date, at eight in the morning and eight in the evening, the sirens blare and the country comes to a standstill. People bow their heads in silence.
My memory of this day when I grew up in Israel was that the air was unbearably heavy and even lifting my head was an effort. It was a very recent event then, even if to a child it already felt like history. It was also personal, as I’m the child of a sole survivor who had no living relatives on her father’s side.

Israel chose to put equal emphasis on the heroism of those dreadful years. Internationally, the day is commemorated on January 27, the date of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp by the allied forces. Obviously, the international community puts emphasis on their act of triumph over this evil.

Personally, I never bought the heroism angle, nor the emphasis on the allies’ role. Most Jews didn’t rebel or survive, and the allies didn’t enlist to save Jews, but responded to a military aggression by the Germans and their alliance. Both choices of how to commemorate this chapter are attempts to re-paint this horrendous time with emphasis that serves the purpose of seeing ourselves as we wish to be seen.

For me, this day is a reminder of the ever-present human capacity for evil. Most days most folks don’t want to recognize it. I understand, because I am no different. I push away the notes of the darkest shadows of our species almost every day, choosing to not fully see it. But one day a year, there is no escape for me.

The Talmud says, “The greater a man is, the greater his capacity for evil.” So on this sad Remembrance Day I know the depth of darkness has a symmetry in how much we can also rise. But I will contemplate the side of light tomorrow. 
Today I reserve for unmitigated sadness.


Evelyn said...

Thank you, Mirka, for helping us all to remember. Your personal connection makes it more real and vivid for me. I grieve with you.

Vijaya said...

We must never forget. It still shocks me--man's inhumanity to man. I tried so hard to understand it, but I don't. What comes to mind this Holocaust Memorial day is Elgar's Lux aeterna: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IwdeqVmXlHk

janlcoates said...

We here in Nova Scotia became all too aware of the human potential for evil a week ago. 23 innocent victims in a 12-hour killing spree. I continue to cry for the orphaned children and grandchildren, and countless other survivors; although I did not know any of the families personally, my sister knew/knows several as she lives in the Portapique area. Nova Scotians (there are fewer than one million of us) are standing strong, but it's tough.

Sherry Ellis said...

It's horrible what mankind is capable of. Thanks for reminding us of this sad Remembrance Day.