The Museum of Jewish Heritage-A Living Memorial to the Holocaust
The Museum of Jewish Heritage-A Living Memorial to the HolocaustReuters
An old acquaintance of mine is currently involved in producing a documentary about the role of genocidal antisemitic Lithuanians who collaboratored with the Nazis in the massacring of Lithuania's Jews during the Holocaust. This touches me deeply because I am the child of Holocaust survivors, my father from Lithuania and my mother from Poland, and I support all efforts to remember the Jews who perished in the Holocaust including many members of my own family such as my father's father who I am named for, who was murdered together with his own father in the notorious Ponary massacre near Vilna, Lithuania.

From my parents and from the study of the Holocaust I learned that the Nazis targeted Jewish leaders, especially rabbis as their first victims when moving into Jewish areas. From my mother I heard how the Nazis murdered the rabbi of her town, the holy Ostrovtser Rebbe Rav Yechezkel Halstock singling him out and showing him no mercy.

My mother's father Moshe Nissenbaum was shot to death when the Nazis and Polish collaborators found him and his family hiding in a cellar. This was repeated over six million times in various types of cruel death sentences in all the countries and towns that the Nazis vanquished with the help of the collaborators in those places in tens of thousands of places. From my father I heard how his grandmother Miriam starved to death in the Vilna Ghetto and how his grandfather Rav Tzvi Aryeh Kremmer was shot to death in the Ponari forest and dumped in a mass grave.

Therefore, to me, and to millions of others like me who lost relatives in the Holocaust, Holocaust denial sounds like some sort of bizarre cruel "joke" that only out and out liars and rabid antisemites could ever believe to be "true"!

While the Holocaust included the murder of all types of Jews from all over Europe, I encouraged my friend producing the documentary to include the stories of rabbis and Torah scholars and Torah centers that were wiped out by the Nazis and their cohorts during the Holocaust. Since Lithuania was the intellectual center of the Torah and yeshiva world before the Holocaust, being the home of the world-famous Lithuanian yeshivas, its destruction is especially poignant and tragic. The murders and massacres in Lithuania during the Second World War (1939-1945) of world famous rabbis and Torah institutions is an important point of reference for anyone looking to refute the lies that Holocaust deniers delight in telling.

For example, in America recently there is a bit of a commotion going on in the aftermath of some twisted educator calling for the Holocaust to be taught from "an opposing point of view" meaning Holocaust denial should be educationally legitimated. Sounds like a cruel hoax, but tragically it's true, there are far too many Holocaust deniers including governments in Europe that seek to cover-up the roles of their nations cooperating with the Nazis in the Final Solution. This would undo all the educational work undertaken in many Jewish and non-Jewish school curricula over the last number of decades bringing Holocaust education and the story of the murder of six million Jews by the German Nazis and their collaborators.

Holocaust denial can be easily refuted. It's actually not too difficult because there is a lot of good information online and in books. Many universities teach courses in Holocaust studies and Holocaust education has become widely accepted in America and Europe.

As an example, the following is reliably referenced public information linked to Wikipedia: Probably the most dramatic murder of a famous rabbi was at the Seventh Fort massacres of November 1941 where Rav Elchonon Wasserman was murdered together with other rabbis and Jews. There is the horrible murder of Rav Avraham Grodzinsky who was burned alive. All over Europe similar atrocities took place and notable examples are the Bobover Rebbe Rav Ben Tzion Halberstam who was beaten to death, The Telzer Rosh Yeshiva Rav Avrohom Yitzchok Bloch was massacred with the faculty of the yeshiva including another Telz Rosh Yeshiva Rav Azriel Rabinowitz who perished in what is known as the Telzer massacre; the famous Piaseczno Rebbe in Poland Rav Kalonymus Kalman Shapira was shot to death; the famous Rav Menachem Ziemba was shot in the Warsaw Ghetto uprising where he recommended resistance and fighting back.; in Germany the famous Chief Rabbi of Hamburg Rav Yoseph Carlebach died in a concentration camp; and so many more.

The list of victims is very, very long and is beyond the scope of a short essay. But the point I am trying to make is that for the past 2,000 years that the Jewish people were in exile and outside of their ancient homeland in Eretz Yisrael, it was rabbis, Jewish sages and scholars, who led and guided the Jewish people through thick and through thin in order to reach the "finish line" of returning to Eretz Yisrael after a 2000 year exile and continue with a Torah life.

On Yom Kippur as part of the services we recount the fate of the Asara Harugei Malchus - the Ten Martyrs, ten of the most illustrious rabbinic sages that ever lived including Rabbi Akiva who were targeted and murdered by the Romans for the "crime" of teaching the Torah and being Torah leaders.

This then has been the historical "template" of the last 2000 years: The Jews are led by their greatest rabbis who teach Torah and attachment to God, while the Romans and their hateful heirs such as the Nazis and present-day Holocaust deniers are determined to both stamp out Torah leaders and any memory of Jews dying for their faith and their God.

By any measure of history 2,000 years is a very long time. Many dangerous peoples, hostile ideologies and threatening empires have arisen and fallen during that time, the Nazis and Communists included, but the Jewish people have survived and outlived them all.

Unfortunately in modern times with the rise of secularization and the estrangement of many Jews from their Jewish roots due to assimilation and a "silent holocaust" that has witnessed so many Jews succumb to non-Jewish and even anti-religious ways of thinking and behaving, it is important to speak up and make it known by whatever means, that the Jewish people has survived for thousands of years not by secularizing, not by assimilating, not by intermarrying, but by learning Torah, practicing the Mitzvot (commandments), and living and even dying for their love of God and Judaism. And at the forefront stood the great rabbis who have led the people and will continue to do so until the end of time.