Remembering the Spiritual Heroism of the Shoah
In honor of Holocaust Remembrance Day, INN TV’s Yoni Kempinski spoke with Rabbi Shmuel Granatstein of the Kiddush Hashem Archives.
The Kiddush Hashem Archives seek to introduce awareness among youth of the spiritual heroism and bravery of the Jews during the Holocaust. It does so, among other ways, by holding exhibitions, conducting seminars for junior and high schools both in Israel and abroad, by recording video testimonies of Holocaust survivors, and by computerizing its archive in order to make it easily accessible.
“The Kiddush Hashem Archives were created to bring the message to the next generations about the spiritual heroism of the Jews under the rule of the Nazis,” said Rabbi Granatstein. “It’s unbelievable and incomprehensible. What gave them the power, even under the dangers of the Nazi camps, to continue to do whatever they could to keep Torah and mitzvot? They kept finding ways to continue to do whatever they felt was right.”
One example of the struggle to keep Judaism under the Nazi rule can be found in the story of a boy before Bar Mitzvah, whose parents prepared for him a pair of tefillin (phylacteries) for the occasion. The parents later died in the hands of the Nazis, and the boy asked his rabbi for permission to wear his tefillin even before his Bar Mitzvah, despite it being prohibited by Jewish law, for fear he too would die. The rabbi gave the boy permission to put on his tefillin before he reached the age of 13.
“We keep the memories of many Jewish communities and people from before World War II,” explained Rabbi Granatstein when asked about the how the archives operate. “We hold many lectures for youth of all kinds of Jewish levels, not just for religious ones.”
According to the rabbi, the most important message that the archives give is that “it doesn’t look as though anti-Semitism will be wiped away. The Jewish nation never succeeded in defeating anti-Semitism, but the spiritual power of Judaism gave it the power to overcome anti-Semitism. What we feel is our goal is to tell the history of the Jewish power and heroism to the future generations, in order to give them the strength to survive whatever might happen in the coming years.”