Holocaust Memorial Day was commemorated last week. The day occasioned a number of remarkable stories.
Orin Kerr wrote about his late father:
The death march brought Aronek and his group to a death camp called Rieben in West Prussia. On the way there, they slept on church floors and were barely fed by their Ukrainian guards. Soon, people began to die of starvation and cold. One day when there was virtually no food left, a full supply train overturned after running off tracks that had been blown up by partisans. Aronek was selected to help clean up. Knowing he would be shot for stealing any provisions, Aronek tucked his pant leg into his boot and poured sugar into his pant leg. He allowed him himself two spoonfuls of sugar each day, which lasted until liberation.
Robert Avrech told the story of his friend, Sol Teichman:
Later, I discovered that, carrying Steve on my back, I had marched for four days and covered approximately seventy miles. But at the time, not knowing how long or how far I traveled, time seemed to vanish and distances seemed endless as I pushed onward, day after day under the oppressive heat, my back bent like a bow. My throat was parched from thirst; the sun beat down and my skin was burned raw. I was dizzy from exhaustion, hunger and fear. Every bone in my body was throbbing. I felt like a marching skeleton. Thousands were murdered along that road. My fellow Jewish prisoners were beaten to death with wooden clubs and iron bars. Some Jews welcomed death for life had become endless torture, unendurable.
The IDF spokesperson’s blog tells of Esther Friedman who was rescued by Malka Weiss de Gantz, the mother of current IDF chief of staff, Benny Gantz.
As a part of this project, IDF soldiers and officers meet with survivors each year on Holocaust Remembrance Day to hear their stories. This meeting, however, was unique. Malka Weiss de Gantz, the mother of the IDF Chief of Staff, was also a survivor of the Bergen-Belsen camp and was the one who saved Esther. “I had typhus, and then they threw me on a mountain of bodies. Your mother, I have no idea where she got the strength, was the one who pulled me from the bodies and brought me to the British ambulance,” said Esther. “Thanks to Malka, I’m here today.”
These stories are not just about the extreme suffering endured by these individuals, but about their survival too. In the face of such devastation, survival was a huge victory.
Instapundit linked to a remarkable photo essay, 20 Photos That Change The Holocaust Narrative. These pictures show defiance. Some are pictures of Jews fighting Nazi Germany. Some show Jews clinging to their faith in the face of destruction. And some simply show survival. (There was one especially poignant comment that I noticed.) When six million were killed the losses were enormous and these victories were small, but that makes the victories that much more precious.
Unfortunately, now there are those who would have us forget those small victories. In this day and age when Jews (specifically the Jews of Israel) are lectured that they need to learn the lessons of the Holocaust it’s important to keep these stories and pictures in mind. What happened to the Jews seventy years ago wasn’t the first time someone tried to wipe us out.
Let us strip the “they-of-all-people” argument down to its very basics: gentiles telling Jews that we killed six million of your people and that as a result it is you, not us, who have lessons to learn; that it is you, not us, who need to clean up your act. It is an argument of atrocious, spiteful insanity. Do not accept it; turn it back on those who offer it. For it is us, not you, who should know better.
In a similar vein, FresnoZionism writes:
The Jewish lesson of the Holocaust is this: Jew hatred is real, it is dangerous, and it is not possible for Jews to depend on others, no matter how well-intentioned they may seem, to protect them. For almost two thousand years, the Jewish people depended on others, and the result was periods of tolerance interspersed with persecutions, expulsions and murder.
Twenty years ago Israel made peace with a terrorist who claimed to have reformed. When it turned out that he hadn’t totally given up terrorism, Israel fought back. Instead of being praised for taking risks for peace, Israel was warned against striking back too hard lest it hurt the chance for peace.
Nowadays another regime verbally threatens Israel with destruction. The world lectures Israel that the words are metaphorical not literal and that it ought not to overreact.
The lesson of the Holocaust is that the world can’t be trusted with Jews.
When international organizations devote a disproportionate amount of time condemning Israel… When human rights organizations eagerly turn mistakes by Israel into international incidents… When counties who expelled nearly all their Jews accuse Israel of ethnic cleansing… When Israel is the only country other than Nazi Germany cited for violating the Fourth Geneva Convention…
The world shows that it still cannot be trusted with Jews.