This year, beginning on the evening of April 15, is Holocaust and Heroism Remembrance Day, or Yom HaZikaron laShoah ve-haG’vurah as it is called in Israel. This holiday is one of reflection. It is made up of two components that should inspire separate, but interconnected reactions.
First, we reflect on the Holocaust. Six million Jews died at the hands of people blinded by murderous hatred. But there was more than just the suffering of the Jews. We died alongside homosexuals, political dissidents, and anyone else deemed inferior. We must never let our suffering overshadow the suffering of others.
Second, we reflect on heroism. Though this aspect has been problematized by the traditionally dominant belief in Israel that the Jews went like sheep to the slaughter, one cannot help but feel inspired by the Jews who resisted. However, we must never let our resistance be more justifiable than the resistance of others.
I am a third-generation Holocaust survivor and the grandson of a partisan. My grandmother lost all but one family member after the Germans invaded Poland. My grandfather lost his entire family, though he himself retreated to the forest and took up arms against the Nazis and their collaborators. The mantra of resistance has been ingrained in me from my first years.
This Holocaust Remembrance Day, like all others before it, must serve as a reminder. People all over the world are suffering. What are we doing about it? Worse still, people are suffering at the hands of Jews. I will never go so far as to compare Israel with the Nazis. My words should not be misconstrued and these comparisons are both ridiculous and offensive. I am saying that we must resist oppression and hatred in all forms, especially when it comes from within our community.
Indeed, never again!
While teaching at Queens College, of the City University of New York, I organized the N. Y. city-wide University Committee to Protest the War n Vietnam. that was in 1964, and I spent almost a decade organizing protest movements agains the atrocities which were taking place in Vietnam. As a Holocaust survivor, I could do no less.
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