Yesterday was International Holocaust Remembrance Day; a day designated by the United Nations in 2005 for all people all over the world to remember the victims of the Holocaust. I have also used it as an opportunity to reflect on what led up to it, allowed it to happen, and we have – or have not – learned from it.
I was born just 9 years after World War II ended. The proximity of that event to my birth was the same as the attack in the United States on September 11, 2001 will be to the babies born this year. And just as we are still somewhat raw in 2010 over the shocking, hideous loss of 2000 innocent human beings, slaughtered in a single stroke by a handful of obedient, zealous young men who were but the tools of a single, charismatic individual with a belly full of irrational fears, hatred, narcissism and a passion for destruction, my parent’s generation in the mid-1950’s was still struggling to recover from the loss of millions at the hands of Hitler and his Nazi SS. As the years went on and I was old enough to attend Sabbath School, I remember that every week I’d take a portion of my 25¢ allowance to Sabbath School to place in the Tzedakah Box for planting trees in Israel. Living in the lush green state of Ohio, it was hard for me to imagine what it was like to live in a desert or why anyone would even want to, so I was happy to help with these donations so the kids in Israel would have trees to build tree-houses in. (At least, that was the picture I had in my mind.) The classes I attended didn’t really attempt to teach much about spirituality. In the conservative branch of Judaism that I was raised in, the spiritual side of religion was not “taught” as we believe that God lives within us and we each have the individual responsibility to develop our own one-on-one relationship with God. So at Sabbath school our teacher taught us about the 6000+ years history of the Jewish people from the time of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob up to May 14, 1948 when the State of Israel was declared a sovereign nation. Mrs. Tischler would begin and end each class by reciting, in a deep and solemn tone, the phrase:
“LEST WE NEVER FORGET.”
Maybe I was too young or just an inveterate smart aleck, but whenever Mrs. T. would say this, I’d say to myself, “Forget What?”. I made light of what was the most important lesson that there can ever be because I simply didn’t get it. Why would anyone want to remember the horrors of the Holocaust? Shouldn’t my parents and grand-parents and the whole world try to put it behind them as I was told to do when I would awake screaming from a nightmare?
Somewhere between my childhood and giving birth to my own child, I finally understood. The mantra of “Lest We Never Forget” was not espousing either revenge nor living in a state of shock and mourning for the rest of eternity. What we are never to forget is that while there were evil people in the past, present, and will be in the future, what is far more important to remember is that a Hitler, Ho Chi Minh, Sadaam Hussein, or Bin Laden, were only able to rise to their positions of power and wreak the havoc and destruction they are infamous for, because those who could have and should have stopped them, didn’t. It was those of us are are not evil who failed those who became victims to these monsters. We failed to notice the danger that was coming for a variety of reasons, some of which are the lamest of excuses and others which sound reasonable and righteous and once the danger was finally at our door steps, it was too late to avoid the consequences.
What we must not forget is the power of the individual. Because if we do not use our power to reach out a hand to all who will join us, regardless of race, gender, religion or ethnicity, to raise each other up and take a firm stand against those who only want to hate and destroy, we are dooming our children and our children’s children to a world that has forgotten and did not learn.
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Free Icons of the Day
The subject of my offering of free icons/clip art is relevant to this morning’s post topic as would be John Lennon’s “All We Need is Love” as the idealistic dream resolution for all the world’s problems… Sigh… These are also a good head start for your Valentine’s projects. Enjoy!
The following is a reduced size preview. Simply right-click (or control-click) on the preview to save a zipped file to your desktop that contains all images. Each image is 512px X 512px in .png format.