In this day and age of rising Holocaust denial, a good dose of reality about that shameful and horrendous time in history is in order. Even for those who are not swept into the lies propagated today by anti-Semites that the Holocaust never happened, still a trip to a memorial or to the actual remains of a concentration camp is life changing and sobering. Sobering is a not strong enough. Every person in the world will benefit from a glimpse into that dark world. A glimpse is just enough.
There are several places in the states and globally that have good museums that house testimonies, artifacts, photos, journals, documentation, poetry, and art pieces from the concentration camps where 6 million Jews were slaughtered with the utmost precision and methodology.
Yad VaShem in Jerusalem is one of the largest and most compelling. It stands as Israel’s official memorial to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust. The name in Hebrew means literally “memorial and name,” and is derived from a scripture from the Bible: “And to them will I give in my house and within my walls a memorial and a name (Yad Vashem) that shall not be cut off.” It is the second most visited place in Israel exceeded only by the Western Wall.
Approximately 1.5 million Jewish children were murdered during the Holocaust; so appropriately, there is also a special memorial to them. It is deeply touching — dug from the underground, creating a cavern that is filled with candles and mirrors illuminating the remembered souls of the dead by candlelight. All the tiny candle reflections are overwhelming.
According to Jewish tradition, candles are lit to remember and honor the dead. In the background, the names, ages, and countries of origin of the children are read aloud as you pass through. Every time I visit, I am deeply shaken and saddened. It takes me awhile to shake it off.
It is good though to pause and honor these. We cannot change things; but we can stop with reverence, and we can resolve never to let it happen again.
Below you will find two short poems I wrote concerning the Holocaust in general and the children’s memorial.
It is important for me also to say that pausing to remember the dead of the Holocaust one must guard her heart not to allow ill-feelings of unforgiveness or hatred toward the German nation or any person, including Hitler, to arise or grow. Unforgiveness will lead us down the same pathway of anger to the point of marginalization, racial prejudice, and ultimately murder.
Some from the German nation have repented publicly and privately to the Jewish people and the world. Some have led this march toward healing and cleansing by stellar examples of going low and reaching out humble hands in asking forgiveness.
One of the most outstanding groups to bring about reconciliation between nations has been the Evangelical Sisterhood of Mary located in Darmstadt, Germany. It was founded after WWII by Basilia Schlink for the purpose of making amends on a very deep and personal level. And their work continues today, quite successfully. Many others have followed in their footsteps to heal the scars.
The New Covenant tells us that we are to remember the Lord’s death until He comes. King Solomon tells us there is a time for everything, even a time to remember the dead. I believe both strength and compassion are deposited in our spirits when we pause to remember and honor the Lord’s suffering and death.
Likewise, there is a significant deposit in our souls, minds, and hearts when we remember and honor the deaths of unjust victims, family, and/or friends. That is why I feel a visit to the Holocaust museum or a grave site or any place that catalogs this event through history, photos, and memorabilia is significant.
Black bars and spikes of torture,
shadowy Nazi beast loomed
from death’s dark pit.
Millions of yellow stars
snuffed by hate.
Prejudice extinguished life’s
Fragile candle flames.
What do I learn
from heinous Holocaust?
Hate’s retaliation cancels
by a coin’s two-sided empathy and wisdom.
releases compassion’s tear,
but equally horrifying
the coin’s other side:
the mirrored remembrance
reflects my face.
I, a son of Adam,
a stoking Nazi could be,
and guilty as he
except by great grace.
© Bonnie Saul Wilks
all rights reserved
Flickering Holocaust Memory
Names of the slaughtered children:
“Joseph, Meir, Hannah, and Rose,”
echo from Yad VaShem’s candlelights.
Only after three years
the recorded names will repeat.
Millions of lights extinguished,
youth’s brimming cup spilled out,
in death’s untimely childhood defeat.
Candle flames flicker in
For the children
eyes well with tears.
Hate grips and twists
the heart savage;
beware lest history repeat
the tragic death lairs.
© Bonnie Saul Wilks
all rights reserved
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)