Monday, May 09, 2005

Never Again

A mass grave found after the liberation of Bergen-Belsen
United States Holocaust Memorial

"And then we got out of the train. And everything went so fast: left, right, right, left. Men separated from women. Children torn from the arms of mothers. The elderly chased like cattle. The sick, the disabled handled like packs of garbage. They were thrown in a side together with broken suitcases, with boxes. My mother ran over to me and grabbed me by the shoulders, and she told me 'Leibele, I'm not going to see you no more. Take care of your brother.' " Leo Schneiderman, Auschwitz survivor

"The minute the gates opened up, we heard screams, barking of dogs. Bergen-Belsen was hell on earth. Nothing ever in literature could compare to anything what Bergen-Belsen was. When we arrived, the dead were not carried away any more, you stepped over them, you fell over them if you couldn't walk. There were agonizing...people begging for water. They were crying, they were begging. It was, it was hell. It was hell. Day and night. You couldn't escape the crying, you couldn't have escaped the praying, you couldn't escape the [cries of] 'Mercy,' the, it was a chant, the chant of the dead. It was hell." Alice Lok Cahana, Bergen-Belsen survivor

You read their words and you can't breathe. You look at the pictures and your blood freezes. You say to yourself, How is it possible that human beings did this to other human beings? And then, over the huge lump of rage and sorrow in your throat, you have to speak.

Jews have a rallying cry for the Holocaust. It's written in the blood of millions: Never Again.

For 60 years, since the war in Europe officially ended May 8, 1945 -and the enormity of the Holocaust became public record- Never Again has been a reminder, a warning and a promise.

And now, especially as the first generation of Holocaust survivors ages and dies, it must become a universal shibboleth -- to preserve their legacy of suffering, and avenge the deaths of millions, for present and future generations.

We have an obligation, as Jews, Gentiles, Muslims, Human Beings, to honor the memory and the sacrifice of so many innocent victims. To remember the mind-boggling horror of the Holocaust, and to pass the torch of Never Again to our children.

The pure evil of the Final Solution and of the Nazi's despicable crimes against humanity is so huge it is still difficult to process, even from a distance of 60 years -- but we must try, and we must succeed.

As I read the news stories last week, this weekend, today, certain scenes and quotes resonate with defiance and hope.

Holocaust Remembrance Day in Israel, marked as it is every year by air-raid sirens signaling two minutes of simultaneous nationwide silence in homage to Jews who perished in the Holocaust. Throughout the country, people stop what they're doing, cars pull to the side of the road, everything literally comes to a halt. People remembering. And saying Never Again.

Elie Wiesel, Nobel Peace Laureate, Holocaust Survivor, "I decided to devote my life to telling the story because I felt that having survived I owe something to the dead. And anyone who does not remember betrays them again."
Berlin's new Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, variously called a Field of Pillars, a Forrest of Tombs. In chilling irony, the concrete memorials have a special coating to protect against neo-Nazi graffiti.

Official resolution of the German parliament, "With the memorial we intend to honor the murdered victims, keep alive the memory of these inconceivable events in German history and admonish all future generations never again to violate human rights."

Candles, flashlights and lanterns stretching across Berlin in a 33-km chain as tens of thousands of anti-fascist German protesters take to the streets to present a unified force against a proposed neo-Nazi rally on the anniversary of Nazi Germany's surrender.

Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit, "May 8, 1945 was a day of liberation for Berlin, Germany and Europe from Nazi dictatorship. This date has a lasting meaning for history - never again terror, war and genocide. We must remain vigilant."

Thousands of Jews from around the world joining in a March of the Living from Auschwitz to Birkenau to symbolize the last desperate Nazi "death marches" in advance of approaching Allied forces. Then at Birkenau, a huge screen displaying pictures of prisoners, gas chambers, crematoriums, and survivors telling their unimaginable stories. And an enormous banner reading Never Again.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, "Remember the victims and remember the murderers. Remember how millions of Jews were led to their deaths and the world remained silent. I am sure that all my colleagues, the leaders of the world, remember. Don't let them forget."
And at the same March of the Living:

"There are so many people from around the world here, it is a guarantee this will not happen again," a Russian student, quoted in the Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz.
From her mouth to God's ear. Never Again.

Quotes from New York Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, Haaretz, The Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

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Blogger David Goldenberg said...

Thanks for putting it out there so eloquently! I was very moved by the descriptions.

12:56 AM  

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