Rabbi Irwin Wiener, D.D.
Many of us have seen movies, heard stories or read books about the Holocaust. Most of us received some message or meaning from the experience. But through all the telling, there is one theme that is the common denominator – survival.
All Holocaust depictions have that unmistakable message. Whether it is Schindler’s List or Sophie’s Choice or more recent films like The Reader or Defiance, we see man’s inhumanity toward man and we smell the stench of hatred and despair.
We all bear witness to the fact that truth cannot be substituted by madness. Only complacency can hide the truth from us. Even those among us today who declare that the Holocaust is a figment of someone’s imagination will one day understand that truth may be manipulated, but only because of the willingness of the family of man. Truth is the one weave in the fabric of humanity that is eternal, as is the message brought to keep the memory alive.
The ultimate truth is that we are left to not only be witnesses, but also to try to make sense of it all. The survivors of this unimaginable destruction of spirit and flesh are the true observers of the two faces of society – good and evil.
We are also left to remember, because that is a holy mission. To remember is part of the understanding of the tragic episode it represents. There is no one answer, as there is no one explanation that would allow us to have closure.
This horrific chapter should never be forgotten, for that would certainly desecrate the memory of those who have no one to say prayers or light candles or tell tales of their lives. Scratched on the wall of a railroad car, one of the lost souls wrote, “I should like someone to remember that there once lived a person named David Berger.” We must never let this chapter end because of all the David Berger’s who are nameless and faceless. We will never finish the story, because it has no ending. The struggles of life and the tortures of memory will never complete the tragic retelling of the souls that are weeping because they are afraid we will forget them.
The ranks of those who suffered and those who were liberators are thinning. Soon, only memory will be the torch that is carried to the next generation. We cannot allow this chapter to be minimalized or trivialized, because then it just becomes a moment in time.
The smell from the ovens will always be there and, with it, the remnants of a generation who were consumed by hate and indifference. We must remember their sacrifice and just as we have survived, so too their memories shall remain with us forever. And each time we watch a film or tell a story of someone we never knew who was lost or try to imagine the million children who looked at us in disbelief – each time we remember, we ensure the immortality of these souls that symbolizes re-birth.
We pledge that this will never be just a moment in time, but a moment for all time.