Holocaust Remembrance Day
This past Monday marked the anniversary of one of the most tragic events in history and an event that humanity must never forget, the Holocaust. Sixty-five years later we find ourselves upon the last generation of survivors, and very soon those who experienced these events first hand will be gone and their stories will become only that which lies in the archives of history.
The question arises, will we pass on to our children what really took place and learn from what occurred or will treat the Holocaust as just one of many tragic events of the past.
It is easy to believe that such bigotry and hatred cannot repeat itself in our time unless we review history and realize that what occurred was a step by step process. What began as the resentful sentiment of a few, eventually grew into widespread genocide that would see the extermination of over half of the Jewish population of the world, six million Jews in total perished.
Others considered inferior included Gypsies, homosexuals, and those with mental and physical deformities. Jehovah’s Witnesses were also singled out because of their defiance, being one of the few groups who openly and courageously refused to accept the racial laws of the state and refused an oath of allegiance to Hitler. Combined with the Jewish persecution, over 11 million people were put to death under Nazi policy.
Upon a recent trip to Maui, my wife and I had the opportunity to visit with Roman Ward, a Polish Jew who had survived the events of the Holocaust. The stories that Mr. Ward shared with us throughout our evening’s visit brought to life the horrific reality of the time. It is probably safe to say that none of us on Molokai know what it feels like to be systematically hunted down with the intention of exterminating your entire race, including everyone you know and love.
Mr. Ward went on to acknowledge that his extended family in Poland at the time was quite large, numbering in the hundreds. In the end, he and his mother would be the sole survivors of his family line. As he explained to us, fearing that at any moment he would be recognized as a Jew, it was literally his ability to be an actor that saved his life, at times pretending to be a member of Nazi Youth and at other times an altar boy at a nearby Catholic Church. From the Chronicles of history, he would go on to serve in the Haganah (Israeli military) in the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948. In retrospect, I consider the evening we spent with Mr. Ward to be one of the most important engagements of my life.
It is essential that we never forget the Holocaust or the potential of what is possible as the result of a single seed planted that bares hate and resentment. It is the responsibility of parents and teachers to make our children understand the tragedy of the Holocaust and the tragedy of prejudice. May we never forget!
For a quick review on the events of the Holocaust go to- www.historyplace.com/worldhistory/genocide/holocaust.htm