Sivan Rahav-Meir
Sivan Rahav-Meir Eyal ben Ayish

* Translation by Yehoshua Siskin (http://inthelandoftheJews.blogspot.com)

A plethora of personal stories have been sent to me that are highly appropriate for publication on Yom HaShoah. However, it seems equally important to me today to share six cold, hard historical facts. These are essential facts which, according to *Professor Yosef Ben-Shlomo*, need to be learned well since they help to answer a fundamental question: What made the Holocaust a unique event, unlike anything else in human history?

*1. "Yudenrein."* For the first time in history (other than Haman’s plot against the Jews in ancient Persia), one nation sought the complete elimination of another, despite the fact that the vast majority of the nation targeted for extermination lived outside the territory of the aggressor nation. The goal was not to just put the other nation into exile but to erase it from the face of the earth. In Nazi documents on the number of Jews destined for death, the tiny Albanian Jewish community of 200 souls was noted.

*2. Absence of opposition.* In the Wannsee Conference of January, 1942, the “Final Solution” was unanimously approved by the fifteen attendees, all of whom held high-ranking ministerial positions in the German government, and eight of whom were holders of doctorate degrees.

*3. The Germans worked against their own interests in World War II.* Even as Germany was losing the war, it behaved irrationally. Instead of investing in fighting enemy forces, the Germans continued “to waste” energy on their Jewish extermination project.

*4. They were not crazy.* Among the murderers were family men and women, professionals, and intellectuals. They were perfectly sane. Millions of ordinary, regular folks did not see any problem with taking part in this giant extermination project.

*5. The concentration camps were not bombed.* The death factories continued to operate without interference by the Western allied nations or their armies, even while the allies regularly bombed Nazi munitions factories.

*6. There was no way out.* Unlike their ability to cope with other horrendous decrees and persecutions throughout history, the Jews of Europe had no way out. There was no possibility of saving themselves through cooperation with the enemy, either by being exiled or by conversion to another faith. Death was their only option.

Today, as we face rampant anti-Semitism, Holocaust denial, ignorance, and forgetfulness, it's worthwhile to remember: knowledge is power.

Professor Shalom Rosenberg noted that Nazi Germany, the absolute evil of our times, singled out Judaism and the Jews as the absolute enemy. We did not merit to see G-d descend on Mount Sinai and proclaim: "You are my beloved," but we were privileged in our generation to see Satan proclaim: "You are my enemy." Therefore, every Jew must always ask himself: "How am I an enemy of evil?"

A plethora of personal stories have been sent to me that are highly appropriate for publication on Yom HaShoah. However, it seems equally important to me today to share six cold, hard historical facts. These are essential facts which, according to *Professor Yosef Ben-Shlomo*, need to be learned well since they help to answer a fundamental question: What made the Holocaust a unique event, unlike anything else in human history?

*1. "Yudenrein."* For the first time in history (other than Haman’s plot against the Jews in ancient Persia), one nation sought the complete elimination of another, despite the fact that the vast majority of the nation targeted for extermination lived outside the territory of the aggressor nation. The goal was not to just put the other nation into exile but to erase it from the face of the earth. In Nazi documents on the number of Jews destined for death, the tiny Albanian Jewish community of 200 souls was noted.

*2. Absence of opposition.* In the Wannsee Conference of January, 1942, the “Final Solution” was unanimously approved by the fifteen attendees, all of whom held high-ranking ministerial positions in the German government, and eight of whom were holders of doctorate degrees.

*3. The Germans worked against their own interests in World War II.* Even as Germany was losing the war, it behaved irrationally. Instead of investing in fighting enemy forces, the Germans continued “to waste” energy on their Jewish extermination project.

*4. They were not crazy.* Among the murderers were family men and women, professionals, and intellectuals. They were perfectly sane. Millions of ordinary, regular folks did not see any problem with taking part in this giant extermination project.

*5. The concentration camps were not bombed.* The death factories continued to operate without interference by the Western allied nations or their armies, even while the allies regularly bombed Nazi munitions factories.

*6. There was no way out.* Unlike their ability to cope with other horrendous decrees and persecutions throughout history, the Jews of Europe had no way out. There was no possibility of saving themselves through cooperation with the enemy, either by being exiled or by conversion to another faith. Death was their only option.

Professor Shalom Rosenberg noted that Nazi Germany, the absolute evil of our times, singled out Judaism and the Jews as the absolute enemy. We did not merit to see G-d descend on Mount Sinai and proclaim: "You are my beloved," but we were privileged in our generation to see Satan proclaim: "You are my enemy." Therefore, every Jew must always ask himself: "How am I an enemy of evil?"

A little spoon and ten messages for Yom HaShoah

On the day prior to Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day), I received a precious gift, courtesy of the daughter of a recently deceased Holocaust survivor:

"Shalom Sivan, My name is Dina Womzer. This year we celebrated our first Seder night without my father, Yaakov Yehoshua, and today we will mark the first Yom HaShoah without him.

In the Bergen-Belsen camp, father was very hungry. He found a little silver spoon with the name 'Rudy,' that of a Jewish child who apparently had not survived, engraved upon it. Father kept the spoon and each day after they finished apportioning the murky soup to the prisoners, he would take the spoon and scrape the bottom of the pot with it. He would do this with all his strength in order to be rewarded with one extra drop of food.

Each year this spoon would be the focus of our Seder night. Father would tell his story and when we sang "VeHaKadosh baruch Hu matzileinu mi'yadam" (And the Holy One blessed be He saves us from their hand) he would wave the spoon and recall how he himself was saved. This year on Seder night we displayed the spoon and continued to tell the story ourselves for the generations to come.

Father left us another precious gift. On his 90th birthday that we celebrated only a few months ago, he formulated for us ten messages, a kind of 'Ten Commandments' you might say. As a Holocaust survivor and as someone who built his life anew, he left behind a guide for his descendants, how we should conduct ourselves in the world. We read his words together on Seder night, and on this Yom HaShoah, we would like to share them with the wider public.

1. "Who is rich? He who is happy with his portion." It cannot be that "his portion" refers to his material possessions since a person continually worries that he will lose his property or that it will be stolen, and it is even written in Pirkei Avot: "Increasing possessions increases worry." Rather "his portion" refers to his spiritual portion, the money that he gives to tzedakah. This is a portion that can never be taken from him and in which he can rejoice and be happy!

2. When we pray and ask for a good friend, Pirkei Avot suggests: "Acquire a friend," meaning we need to check his qualities as we would anything else before acquiring it. We do not, heaven forbid, want to absorb others' bad habits since friends can have a dramatic influence on us.

3. In the business world, we need to check the truthfulness and reliability of the people with whom we do business. We need to play it safe: "Respect him but suspect him." Check with whom you are "dealing" -- in both senses of the word.

4. Closeness to G-d or cleaving to HaShem is achieved through Torah study. Therefore, learning must be a daily constant. Otherwise, heaven forbid, there can be an interruption in our connection with HaShem.

5. We should examine the words of our prayers intently in order that we do not recite them like chirping birds, but rather with deep focus and concentration, and pay close attention to the words that come from our mouths so that they should also come from our hearts. Similarly, in the words of praise to HaShem, we must understand and carefully focus on every quality ascribed to Him.

6. Family unity is created by treating each child the same, without favoring one over another, in order not to repeat what happened with Yosef and his brothers.

7. Not everything is good -- but everything is for the best! Our task is to remember that in the all-inclusive Divine accounting, what happens is for the good of ourselves, our family, the nation, and the world, even if we do not see it with eyes of flesh.

8. Purim -- Megillat Esther -- is a wonderful example of the previous point -- how, in the end, everything flipped and turned out for the best.

9. "Hashem knows what He is doing. He does not punish anyone for no reason, His judgment is just." These are words from a song that Fannie Ehrenreich z"l taught during the Holocaust. They resemble "He is a G-d of faith, without wrongdoing, He is righteous and upright," and "The judgments of Hashem are true, they are righteous altogether."

10. A human being should know that life has a purpose. And its true purpose is complete redemption! As long as we have not gotten there, we are still on the road and cannot rest on our laurels! And so redemption becomes an inseparable part of our thoughts, words, and actions!".

whatsapp
Join our official WhatsApp group