Yom HaShoah: Earth Shaking Echoes of Pain Wracked Bodies

Yom-Hashoah2Yom HaShoah: Earth Shaking Echoes of Pain Wracked Bodies

by Ariella Bracha Waldinger

The day of REMEMBERING begins at night with the piercing scream of the siren…a time when silence reigns and earth shaking echoes of pain wracked bodies send seismic shock waves into the atmosphere.

Words become too few and too narrow to speak, when one attempts to express the raw pain of the grief-filled, heart stopping, blood curdling suffering of the nation of Israel during the horrific chapter called Shoah…Holocaust.

The word Holocaust lends itself to the echoes of the death camps where Jewish life was as cheap as disposable dishes or the garbage that clings to them.

The pain vibrating from then until now and into the future, forcefully imposes itself and cracks the foundations of one’s status quo, as one is horrifically reminded of a time when the world had gone mad!

During each and every day of the Jews’ incarceration, the innocent victims watched the shadows deepen, as the death knoll beckoned to them and their loved ones… innocent victims whose only sin was being a Jew… one of G-ds chosen people.

Disintegration was its name!

Destruction of the Jewish nation was its game,

And the whole world was to blame…WHERE IS THE ETERNAL SHAME?

Jews, Beaten into submission…NO RESPITE, NO SAFETY. BRUTALITY REIGNING!

Possessions confiscated,

People snatched off the street never to return,

Hearts and souls violently pierced like a commonplace earlobe waiting for an adornment.

Killing, maiming or destroying a Jew was like an Olympic event to be boasted and bragged about to the co-conspirators.

A hell on earth NO HUMAN CAN COMPREHEND but IT HAPPENED. IT IS AS REAL AS THE NOSE ON YOUR FACE.

And when they were robbed of safety and all that life held dear,

And their world consisted of burning, DEVASTATING hunger and great and mind consuming fear….

THE WORLD WAS SILENT.

And when the Jewish people tried with all their might to get the help they needed,

All the nations looked aside, as their horrific pleas of mercy went unheeded.

In the end, the soul-searing silence of aloneness permeated the depth of their souls, as the earth shaking echoes of pain wracked bodies subsided into the silent world of Jewish consciousness.

Dear Jewish family, let us not be silent to our nation’s pain during this horrific chapter!

Let us use this Remembrance Day in an honorable way and pray and pray and pray!

That we, the Jewish nation rise above the modern day would-be assassins, and claim our strength and power as noble inheritors of G-ds blueprint for life…

through clinging to our Torah and choosing to live in our Biblical Land, where we can truly bring honor to G-ds name and keep alive the memory of those holy souls who perished in the Holocaust.

Please light a candle and give charity on behalf of the more than 6 million.

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Reflections on Holocaust Remembrance

yom hashoah

The Frightening Reality of Choice: Reflections on Holocaust Remembrance

by Ariella Bracha Waldinger

Free choice is one of G-ds premier gifts to mankind. We are called upon every single day to make choices whether mundane ones or life altering ones and these decisions have far reaching consequences. It has been said that making good choices is the greatest challenge of living and I believe that it is all too true. Thank G-d that for most of us, our choices do not bring into account the reality of life and death for others! BUT WHAT IF THEY DID?

Fortunately, Torah sources teach us to make our choices guided by profound wisdom, prayer and deep fore-thought. For extremely difficult choices, the Jewish nation has the added bonus of accessing the wisdom and guidance of our Rabbis and Sages. As Holocaust Remembrance Day is just a day away, I felt compelled to share a mind-blowing article representing, THE FRIGHTENING REALITY OF CHOICE AND ITS FAR REACHING CONSEQUENCES.

In the April 23rd, 2014 edition of the magazine Mishpacha, I came across an article that brought to mind the frightening reality of choice and how one can hold in his hands life and death. The article, written by Dr. Rafael Medoff, director of the David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies in Washington D.C. and author of 15 books about Jewish history and the Holocaust, is titled, “Choosing Art over Life”. I am quoting the exact words of the article in order to hold true to its accuracy. This well documented and factual article reveals that

In the spring of 1945, as plans were being drawn up for the use of the atomic bomb against Japan, US secretary of war Henry Stimson met with one of his senior deputies, assistant secretary of war John McCloy, to discuss an urgent question of military strategy. The Air Force had given Stimson a list of the Japanese cities that it felt should be targeted with the bomb. First on the list was the city of Kyoto. Stimson asks McCloy, “Would you consider me a sentimental old man if I removed Kyoto from the target cities for our bombers?” Stimson had visited Kyoto as a young man, and was so charmed by its ancient monuments and artwork that he returned to see it again on his honeymoon. He could not bear to see a center of historic cultural artifacts reduced to rubble. The reason for saving it had nothing to do with military necessity and this decision, to which the Air Force commanders objected, was overruled by Stimson. This decision was one of many instances during the war that US military strategy was altered or military resources diverted, for non-military reasons.

Months earlier, the same John McCloy had personally rejected Jewish organizations’ requests for U.S. planes to bomb Auschwitz or the railway lines leading to it. He told them military resources could not be diverted from the battlefield for non-military purposes such as striking the Nazi death camp- even though US bombers were hitting German oil factories less than 5 miles away and thus would not have had to be diverted at all.

Stimson, too, strongly opposed taking measures to aid Jewish refugees. He tried to block proposals to admit more Jews to the United States, arguing that they were “unassimilable” and would undermine America’s existing “racial stock.” Throughout the war, American Jewish organizations periodically asked Roosevelt administration officials to take steps to aid Europe’s Jews. The answer was almost always “NO.” The usual explanation was that it would divert from the war effort. Send food to Jews starving in the ghettos? That would undermine the Allies blockade of enemy territory. Transport Jewish refugees to havens in the West? All ships were needed for military purposes. Drop a few bombs on the gas chambers at Auschwitz? That would mean taking planes away from battle. Military needs had to come before humanitarian matters! Invoking “the war effort” was an effective way to end the discussion.

Jewish leaders, always sensitive to accusations that Jews were unpatriotic, would never risk pressing for something that America’s leaders considered a diversion from the war effort. Yet the truth is the Allies repeatedly diverted military resources or changed military plans for non-military purposes. For example, in response to pressure from American Catholics, President Roosevelt ordered the Air Force to restrict bombing raids over Rome, using risky pinpoint strikes instead of broader bombing in order to minimize damage to religious structures in or near the Vatican.

In another episode, the British set-aside ships to bring 20,000 Muslims on a religious pilgrimage from Egypt to Mecca. Additionally, Gen. George Patton diverted US troops in Austria to save 150 of the famous Lipizzaner dancing horses that were trapped between the American and German lines.

In March 1945, McCloy happened to be on the scene as advancing American troops approached the German town of Rothenberg. McCloy knew of Rothenberg’s meticulously preserved medieval architecture and monuments. Putting nonmilitary needs first, he ordered the generals on the battlefield to change their military plans in order to spare the town.

The extraordinary steps taken with regard to Kyoto, Rome and Rothenberg reflected the mindset within the Roosevelt administration which placed a high value on rescuing artwork and monuments from the devastation of World War II.

In June 1943, Pres. Roosevelt announced the establishment of the special U.S. government commission “for the protection and salvage of artistic and historic monuments in Europe.”  Diverting military personnel to save Jewish refugees was unthinkable; diverting them to save paintings however, was another matter. Beginning in late 1943, small teams of American and British military personnel, many of them art experts or museum curators, set out across Allied controlled sections of Europe to locate paintings, sculptures and other artifacts the Nazis had stolen from art galleries, art museums and private collectors. The name for the group of men selected for this assignment was “The Monuments Men.” They actually intervened to prevent the US Army from carrying out military action that might damage famous architecture or monuments. Their work was fraught with danger and two of the rescuers were killed in the line of duty. They ultimately discovered hundreds of thousands of paintings that the Nazis had stashed away in obscure castles and salt mines.

The irony of discovering these valuable art pieces including a previously unknown work by Mark Chagall is not lost on the fact that the Roosevelt administration stalled on helping the famous artist to flee France and immigrate to America. Because of the delays, Chagall got caught in the police roundup of Jews in April 1941, and was put in prison. Due to the intervention of Hiram Bingham IV, a dissident US diplomat and vice-consul at the American Consulate in Marseille at the time, who took part in a secret effort to rescue Chagall and Varian Fry an American journalist, they got him out of prison and out of France in the nick of time. Three years later the same administration that showed so little interest in saving the painter, assigned military personnel to rescue more of his paintings.”

The tragic double standard that characterized US policy is perhaps best summed up in the 1978 poem “SILENCE” by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Elie Wiesel:

What pains were taken to save cathedrals, museums, and monuments from destruction. Treasures of art must be preserved-they are the song of the human soul! And in the camps and streets of Europe mother and father and child lay dying, and many looked away! To look away from evil: Is this not the sin of all “good” people?

A movie called “The Monument Men” was produced by George Clooney to rave reviews. I wonder how audiences would feel if they knew the true story behind the art rescue efforts. Apparently, President Roosevelt was told that victory would have little meaning if the artistic treasures of Western civilization were lost in the fighting.

Artistic Treasures? Monuments? Versus LIFE

The FRIGHTENING REALITY OF CHOICE! Especially when we understand there are always consequences to our choices. Choose wisely my friends and choose good over evil to help eradicate its darkness. Please light a candle on April 16th, in honor of the six million Jews that perished.

For more information and essays from Dr. Rafael Medoff, go to: http://tabletmag.com/author/rafaelmedoff

 

 

 

 

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Yom HaShoah and its inherent messages to the Jewish Nation

yom hashoahsirenYOM HASHOAH AND ITS INHERENT MESSAGES TO THE JEWISH NATION

by Ariella Bracha Waldinger

Prior to the arrival of Yom HaShoah, I decided I would devote more quality time and attention, in a deeper and more meaningful way, to this precious day of Remembrance. I arrived at this decision after experiencing the countless blessings of receiving a clean bill of health after a cancer scare.  Personal experiences, where your life flashes before your eyes, are definitive times to assess what is significant in life and this day of Yom HaShoah is very significant and precious to me.

First of all, why was this date chosen and what is its significance? The Hebrew calendar is filled with various holidays that commemorate specific epic events in the History of the Jewish nation such as Passover, Chanukah and Purim where we overcame our enemies and emerged into freedom.  According to About.Com on 20th Century History, various days and dates were debated in the Israeli Parliament in order to ultimately select a date that would have a direct relation and tie to the Holocaust.   Finally after two years of discussion, the 27th of Nisan was chosen. This day falls after the Festival of our Freedom which is Passover and falls near the date of The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising which took place in April of 1943. Originally it was called, Holocaust and Ghetto Revolt Remembrance Day. The name later became known as Devastation and Heroism Day and later simplified to Yom HaShoah….Israel’s Holocaust Memorial Day. This date reflects upon the horrors of the Holocaust and its decimation of our nation, as well as the courage of those heroic souls, who dared to instigate the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising against the perpetrators of evil. It is a date to remember and honor all the courageous of ISRAEL who dared to survive the horrors against all odds and live to tell the truth of what transpired.

I can attest to the fact that the entire Nation of Israel, in the Land of Israel, takes Yom HaShoah very seriously. The entire day, which begins the night before at sunset, is dedicated to ceremonies, education and testimonials to the victims and survivors. Shops, entertainment, restaurants and other non-essential businesses close in order to bring honor to this sacred holiday. The majority of Jews in Israel attend ceremonial events, watch tv shows about the holocaust, or ceremonial events broadcast on tv or attend other activities that honor the day and its meaning.

Prior to bedtime, I lit a fragrant candle in honor of the Day. My intention when lighting, was that the fragrance of the candle and its light, representing the pure souls that perished in the brutal Holocaust, should create a burning flame inside of me and the entire nation of Israel; a flame that would ignite OUR SOULS and empower us to live our lives with devotion to G-d and our people with purity and strength, in order to bring honor to those who perished. Afterwards, I retired to bed with reflections of our nation and its history floating through my mind. I awoke to a glorious sunny day with a soft whisper of a breeze caressing the earth.

I said my morning prayers and began to read from the deeply moving book, “Women in the Holocaust” compiled and translated by Jehoshua and Anna Eibeshitz.  I quote from the Preface of this book written by Fayge Silverman, the Editor, in the hope that their stories inspire spiritual movement in all of us. Here is what she wrote:

The testimonies gathered in this anthology are personal experiences and observations of women who survived the darkest period in Jewish history. Their stories form a powerful chronicle of enormous suffering, unwavering strength, and remarkable perseverance in the face of disaster. The stories in this book are a keen testimony to the depth of the spiritual struggle kept alive by women in the Holocaust—-women of vastly different social strata, divergent educational and religious backgrounds, who were nevertheless united in their fight to retain their Jewish and humanitarian values. These women were aware of the very basic Jewish principle of freedom of choice. They understood that restrictions and walls could limit their physical movements but not their mental or moral freedom; and so, with great self-respect, they exercised their choices even in the most horrendous circumstances. Their spiritual resistance manifested itself in many forms. Again and again in the testimonies, the theme of self-education arises, the recognition by the youth of the ghetto of the all-important need for nourishment of the mind and spirit.

These young people actively organized learning circles and underground schools once the Jewish schools in the ghetto were closed. The hunger for learning was universal among them and they went to great lengths enduring freezing cold and risk of life to learn the Bible from their beloved teacher. They became deeply aware that their soul and not their bodies were responsible for their survival, and they turned their attention to the cultivation of their precious inner resources. Their spiritual resistance did not cease in the ghetto but the young women continued to exercise their moral freedom even in the black terror of the death camps, where cultural and prayer groups were organized under the watchful eyes of their overseers, where poetry was written, where Sabbath candles were lit in secrecy, where pocket siddurim (prayer books) were kept and treasured-where faith flourished among the observant and non-observant alike. Even in their final hour, the women did not relinquish the right of choice. Many of them found courage to demonstrate that even if one is aware he is walking to his death, there still remains to him to choose the manner in which he will walk. Testimony is given of an eleven year old girl who asked her mother not to debase herself by begging for mercy of a Polish policeman but to accept her death sentence in dignity; of several young underground activists who, rather than allowing themselves to be lead meekly to the gallows, chose instead to shout words of encouragement to their fellow prisoners even as the nooses were being lowered over their heads.  Chava Bronstein, a prisoner, succinctly articulates the feeling of many young women who resolved not to allow the Germans to gain control over the innermost chambers of their souls: I marched in my torn coat and wooden clogs, and I trembled from the cold. I was fourteen years old then, and I was hungry and humiliated, yet I thanked G-d for being strong inside. The Germans, hoping to crush my faith through the evil hand of degradation, instead succeeded in strengthening my belief in the Almighty. I looked and actually saw the hand of Providence in many events.

This ends the Preface of this extraordinary two volume book set. I would like to suggest that you read this precious book, not only for inspiration from women who kept alive a heroic spiritual resistance but to understand what we stand to gain by delving into their stories. They are extremely pertinent today as we face once again the enemies of the Jewish nation who strive to destroy us both physically and spiritually.  Our biggest challenge today however, is not the fear of life or death, but choosing IF WE WANT TO BE FULLY ALIVE AS AN ACTIVE MEMBER OF THIS HOLY NATION. HOW WE WILL MAKE THAT HAPPEN AND WHERE WE WILL DO IT?

We have returned to our ancient homeland, where our Hebrew calendar is filled with our various holidays that reiterate and incorporate the history and traditions of the Jewish people. It is here in our Holy Land that we can truly make amends for what was done to our People over the course of our history. It is here in Eretz Yisrael where we arose like a phoenix out of the ashes of annihilation to miraculously defeat our enemies and create a country that we can be proud of.

SO, spend some time reading, learning and growing to honor those who gave their lives as innocent victims of a nation gone insane. Strive to apply the precious teachings they passed on to us as their legacy and bring honor to their memory.

I bless you that you uphold the sanctity of your life and strive to bring honor to it each and every day.  I bless you that you come to understand the power of a Nation in their Land. I bless you that you internalize the messages conveyed to us by the victims of the Holocaust. I bless you that you show gratitude to G-d for all the gifts He has bestowed upon you. I bless you to live passionately as a Jew….one of G-ds Chosen Nation!

Ariella Bracha

 

 

 

Remembrance- Yom HaShoah

REMEMBRANCE BY Ariella Bracha

yom hashoahNo one wants to be forgotten! Everyone longs to be remembered! But remembered for what and by whom, I submit?

It would appear as if some things would be better off forgotten, were it not for the fact, that to FORGET WOULD CAUSE IRREPARABLE HARM, to a memory, which must be perpetuated by REMEMBRANCE!

REMEMBRANCE IS THE ACT OF REMEMBERING A PERSON, PLACE OR THING. IT IS SOMETHING THAT SERVES TO HONOR OR COMMEMORATE A PERSON, PLACE OR EVENT.

Sunday night, April 27th at sundown, YOM HASHOAH begins in Israel.  Yom HaShoah means the day of Devastation or Destruction. It is Israel’s Holocaust Memorial day; a day of solemn reflection and recognition.  Memorial ceremonies and programs take place around the country. In fact, every town, city, village, school, public institution, military base and most cultural institutions has a ceremony to mark the event. The most well-known ceremony is held at Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Museum in Israel, where the President and Prime Minister of Israel deliver remembrance speeches and Holocaust survivors Light Six Torches to REMEMBER THE SIX MILLION JEWS WHO PERISHED.

As a result of our miraculous return to our ancient, biblical homeland, the Jewish nation in the Holy Land wanted a day to memorialize the victims of the horrors of the Holocaust.  Thus, on April 12, 1951, the Knesset (Israel’s Parliament) proclaimed the day as a national holiday to be celebrated on the 27th of Nisan. The day is held sacred in order to show respect, gratitude and honor, not only to those who perished but additionally to those who survived. In fact, a Law was passed in 1961 that prohibits places of public entertainment from being open.  At 10am throughout the country, a two-minute siren is sounded and everyone comes to a stop. Cars along the highway, delivery trucks, and buses all stop and passengers get out to mark the two minutes by standing in REMEMBRANCE. It is an amazing experience to be a part of and another reminder that something like this HAPPENS ONLY IN ISRAEL, THE JEWISH HOMELAND.

Since this is a relatively new holiday, without established personal traditions, I feel it is important to create your own observance practices. Suggestions include, lighting candles, reading books or holocaust poetry, saying special prayers or creating your own unique way to acknowledge this day and all that it means to the Jewish nation and the world.  You can also do mitzvot or give charity in memory of those who perished. The most important thing: DO SOMETHING IN THEIR REMEBRANCE and DO IT WITH PASSION! In whatever form you observe Yom HaShoah, it will enable the memory of Jewish victims to live on.

With Blessings of Love and Light and Remembrance, Ariella Bracha