Sunday, April 11, 2010

Yom HaShoah: My Day of Remembrance

Today is Yom HaShoah, the Day of Remembrance - the time in which the world remembers the milions of Jews murdered during the Holocaust. It also marks the beginning of the National Days of Remembrance here in the U.S., highlighted by a ceremony in the Capitol rotunda later this week and the reading of the names at the Holocaust Museum here in Washington.

I was honored to be accepted as one of the many men and women who had asked to be a part of the reading of the names, and so immediately after church this morning I headed into the city to join the ranks of those offering up the names of the victims. Those who were already there were gathered in the Hall of Remembrance, a six-sided domed room that serves as a memorial for the Holocaust victims. Because I was so early, I had an opportunity to sit and to listen and to think as I awaited my turn at the lectern.

As the voices of the readers ahead of me echoed off the concrete walls and around the dome, I sat and stared at the panels hanging in the room which were adorned with just a few words: Treblinka; Auschwitz; Bergen-Belsen; Buchenwald; Ohrdruf. Simple words, yes, but words that symbolize mankind's history of horrible acts committed against itself; words that symbolize the lengths to which one group will go to eliminate another out of hatred; words that symbolize the taking of children from parents, husbands from wives, brothers from sisters.

But then this is what this day is about - words. Hearing a number - six million Jews killed - or seeing pictures is tragic enough, but to read a person's name gives it much more personal significance, much more meaning, much more direct impact. As my turn approached, I wanted to ensure that the few names I was about to read would have an impact, that they would resonate not just off the walls and throughout the dome, but into the hearts of those taking a tour of the museum and pausing to listen to us. I wanted to do my part to make sure that there was one more memory they would take with them, that what they had seen was real and that there were names attached to those men, women and children whose faces they had seen in the exhibits.

And as I finally stood before the microphone, I tried my best to achieve that goal - to not rush my list, but to read each name and give it time to echo and sink in with the others in the room before moving on to the next. Baur. Beer. Beck. Berkstadter. I heard the names coming back to me seconds after I said them, names that I wanted to read perfectly to honor their memory the best way that I could - with my voice.

Had people raised their voices six decades ago, perhaps this could have been prevented. But time cannot be changed, and all we can do now is to ensure that history is not forgotten and most definitely not repeated. As I lit a candle before departing, this was my prayer - and my hope that we would never again see a need to read names such as these.

I think the only way I know to end this post is with the Jewish Kaddish, the prayer for the dead. As you read this and listen to the setting of the Kaddish by Maurice Ravel below, say a prayer for these six million, the men, women and children whose voices were silenced and yet who speak to us still...

Glorified and sanctified be God's great name throughout the world which He has created according to His will. May He establish His kingdom in your lifetime and during your days, and within the life of the entire House of Israel, speedily and soon; and say, Amen.

May His great name be blessed forever and to all eternity.

Blessed and praised, glorified and exalted, extolled and honored, adored and lauded be the name of the Holy One, blessed be He, beyond all the blessings and hymns, praises and consolations that are ever spoken in the world; and say, Amen.

May there be abundant peace from heaven, and life, for us
and for all Israel; and say, Amen.

He who creates peace in His celestial heights, may He create peace for us and for all Israel; and say, Amen.

1 comment:

rdl said...

Thank you for this Matt. very moving and well said. I went to a memorial service here tonite ,with my son, a holocaust survivor spoke. her story was truly remarkable and very sad. forced to flee with her parents at age 4 from poland, to Russia and then to flee there back to poland. where they ulimately had to part. she was given to a cousin who could pass, as she could - she was blond/blue eyed. the parents went to separate camps - with the hope that one would survive - her father did. but first at age 7 she found herself alone on the streets when her cousin was arrested at a resistance meeting. she then went to an orphanage, where at 9 she was reunited with her father. they went back to Poland after the war but still met with hatred and injustices and came here. i am not doing the story justice, but it was very moving.
several years ago i saw another survivor ( of the camps) speak - which was almost hard to listen to. knowing that i am here because my mother's father left Hungary and then sent for them is just...
i didn't post at my place(except to say"Remember", but i guess i did here.