Handing out candy to celebrate dead Jews
Handing out candy to celebrate dead JewsAbed Rahim Khatib/Flash 90

I always wanted to go but, for various reasons, held back. And then I made the decision: My wife and I would go to Poland and visit the scene of the worst period in Jewish history… but we would do it with the right group. Finally, after searching for many years we found a perfect fit; World Mizrachi – the Religious Zionist movement. It was the group we were looking for and the experience exceeded all our expectations.

We spent 8 days and nights learning from our incredible leaders Jeremy Kurnedz and Rabbi David Milston. They led us through forests, train tracks, former ghettos and shtetls. We sang nigguns, songs and said Tehillim. We heard stories of heroism, learned about the partisans and ghetto fighters and relived the horrors – not only of the Nazis – but also of their “happy to help” Polish and Lithuanian “civilian” partners.

We walked for hours in silence, stood by mass graves of Yidden and yes… walked through Auschwitz, Treblinka and even into the Majdanek gas chamber which is totally intact. We cried oceans of tears at all these locations, especially the Children’s Forest, and Jeremy – in his beautiful voice - recited “Kel Moley Rachamim” which pierced our hearts.

While these 8 days in 2024 do not compare to even 8 seconds in 1944, they opened my eyes to one thing – more than anything else; The often-repeated-story of how willing the “friendly” neighbors were to do the dirty work, even before the Nazis arrived. Yes, there were stories of great heroism and bravery by a few righteous gentiles – we even drove an hour to pay tribute to a non-Jewish family of 9 who were brutally murdered when they were caught hiding Jews – but the overwhelming majority of the Poles (for example) were not only complacent… they eagerly tortured, slaughtered and burned their Jewish neighbors with whom they shared a village for over 300 years!

In one such town, Jedwabne (pronounced Yedvavneh), the “innocent Polish civilians” carried out unthinkable horrors and eventually burned the remaining 1,500 Jews alive in a wooden barn house. We stood on that spot and davened. I have no idea what the people in my group prayed for but I begged Hashem to take revenge.

I saw – with my own eyes – how the Holocaust happened, not only because of Auschwitz and Treblinka, but because of the Amalekite nation that helped every step of the way. 1.5 million Jews were murdered even before the first gas chamber started operating in 1941! Let’s never forget that Kristallnacht was in 1938 and the burning of shuls, homes and businesses were carried out by Nazis as well as civilians. For the next 3 years, the Nazis rounded Jews up into ghettos and sent their Einsatzgruppen (mobile killing squads) across Europe - which relied heavily on the civilian population, and all I could think of was one thing… the “innocent civilians in Gaza”.

You know, the ones who danced on 9/11. The ones who ate candy after the Sbarro bombing in Jerusalem. The ones who lynched Israeli drivers who made a wrong turn. And the ones who charged through the broken fence on Oct 7th – we’ve all seen the videos – and happily took part in the brutal rapes, murders and abduction.

As I looked at the churches in Lopuchowo, Warsaw, Lublin and Krakow (all in perfect shape as they stood in the 1940’s) my mind pictured the mosques in Ramallah, Jenin, Tulkarem and Khan Yunis. These religious sanctuaries were, more often than not, sources of hatred and poison which gave the monstrous gentile neighbors the courage and conviction to perpetrate unthinkable horrors.

Let’s not make that mistake again. Israelis need to realize that Arabs in Jerusalem – the guys working in restaurants and hotels - are just waiting for the next “Oct 7th hole-in-the-fence” and Bedouins in the Negev would love nothing more than to join Hamas’ parade. But this is not simply in Israel. Recent events on university campuses in America – and now across Canada and Europe – show that your nice, friendly classmate might not be thinking the same of you…

In summary; this Yom Ha’Shoah will be very meaningful for me because my journey to Poland proved what I have been saying my entire life; Eretz Yisrael is for Am Yisrael and only Am Yisrael and that the Jews of the world need to come home as soon as possible before their friendly neighbors stop being so friendly.

Shmuel Sackett is the Founder and Director of the Am Yisrael Chai Fund, which supports agricultural, educational and building projects across Eretz Yisrael.www.AmYisraelChaiFund.org