To mourn, to remember – Holocaust remembrance

Rabbi Irwin Wiener, D.D.

The German Jewish Political Theorist, Hannah Arendt (1906-1975), wrote during the trial of Adolph Eichmann in Israel: “It was as though in those last minutes he (Eichmann) was summing up the lessons that this long course in human wickedness had taught us – the lesson of the fearsome, word-and-thought-defying banality of evil.” Perhaps she actually compacted into one sentence the sum total of what the Holocaust was and remains in most memories until this very moment in time. Will that be the legacy that will be inherited by the future generations of the unconcerned?

Much has been said, written and depicted about the Holocaust. We continually say that we can never fully describe the death and destruction because to some it was just as Eichmann thought, an incidental happening, something that was not out of the ordinary. It is this kind of evil that trivializes, and even glamorizes murder on such a large scale.

And yet, here we are, commemorating the anniversary of such an atrocity. Human minds can’t fully comprehend the mindless torture of people because we want to forget. We mark the day with solemn utterances and, in Israel, the sirens sound and the shrillness of that cadence gives us time to reflect. But then, once the siren has ended its call to remembrance, we continue with everyday living.

That exercise of continuity doesn’t diminish the loss but rather enables us to continue with life because that is the essence of their sacrifice. We cannot just die but rather live to not only remember but to inform and remind. This is our solemn obligation and its fulfillment destroys the Eichmann’s of the world as they attempt to minimize and even deny the actuality of the horror.

Today we are witnessing a return to the civilized becoming the beasts. The Haman of today sits in a corner of the world that gave birth to civilization as we know it and displays a disdain for the very enlightenment that elevated us from the depths of depravity to the heights of morality. How is this possible?

The answer can be found in one word: Indifference. The world does not want to concentrate on such iniquity. Life is too short to focus on bad things. Therefore, people of good will ignore the hurt and settle on ignoring the truth. It is a sad commentary about society and could even be a motivation for attempting a repeat of such cruelty and dehumanization.

Golda Meir was quoted as saying: “There is no difference between one’s killing and making decisions that will send others to kill. It’s exactly the same thing, or even worse.” Denying truth and even ignoring it, to me, is tantamount to participating in the deed. Turning a blind eye to tragedy makes us accomplices.

The Holocaust will remain a symbol of man’s inhumanity to man for eternity. The remembrance of the Holocaust will ensure that future generations will understand the darkness the enveloped the Earth and the depths to which we are capable of descending. We have met Satan and Satan is us!

How can this chapter ever be closed? There will never be closure because that would desecrate the memory of those who perished, who have no one to remember their existence. We are committed to immortalizing their memories so that their souls will remain bound up in a common bond of weeping that will forever be heard around the world and beyond.

The Sun Lakes Jewish Congregation will commemorate Holocaust Remembrance at Sabbath Services, Friday, May 10, at 7:00 p.m. at Sun Lakes Chapel. All are welcome to participate.