We Remember. We Act.
As World War II neared its end, the battle-hardened soldiers who liberated Nazi concentrations camps could not believe what they saw.
Years later, one Russian solider described his entry into Auschwitz, the notorious death camp in Poland: "When I saw the people, it was skin and bones... They couldn't even turn their heads; they stood like dead people... I was shocked, devastated.”
Dwight D. Eisenhower, General of the U.S. Army, was likewise appalled. “I have never felt able to describe my emotional reactions when I first came face to face with indisputable evidence of Nazi brutality,” he wrote. “I have never at any other time experienced an equal sense of shock.”
Last year I visited Auschwitz, which has been preserved as a memorial to those murdered. As I toured the camp, I thought of the countless people who suffered and died there... and of the thousands of Holocaust survivors that The Fellowship assists every day.
It was clearer than ever to me after that visit that we have a sacred obligation both to the dead and to the living.
We must remember the dead. We must tell the story of their suffering, as painful as it may be, both to honour their memory and to help ensure that such horrors will never occur again. And we must act – and act quickly – to help the living. Tens of thousands of Holocaust survivors in Israel and the former Soviet Union today live in unspeakable poverty and isolation. We must ease their suffering, so that they can live the rest of their lives with a measure of comfort and dignity.
In 2005, the United Nations designated January 27 – the anniversary of the 1945 liberation of Auschwitz – as International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
This year, I choose to think of the millions of innocents murdered by the Nazis. And I think of those who survived and are still struggling both with bitter memories and crippling poverty, and redouble The Fellowship’s efforts to help them.
As we move forward, let our watchwords be: We remember. We act. Not just on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, but every day, let us pledge also to act to help those who survived – and who are crying out for our help.
Join us in honouring those we mourn for, with a gift for the survivors. Please give at www.ifcj.ca/survivors.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Get Rabbi’s Commentary