Yom HaShoah: Holocaust and Heroism Remembrance Day

Here in Israel we commemorate the Holocaust on a different day to that chosen by the rest of the world and that difference is very significant.

In 2005 the UN designated January 27th as Holocaust Memorial Day – the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau by the advancing Soviet army.

Israel commemorates the Holocaust on the 27th of Nisan and remembers not only the genocide of six million Jews in Europe, but also the 93,000 Jewish Partisans, members of the Resistance and Ghetto fighters who actively opposed the Nazi regime.

Whereas the international memorial events take place on the anniversary of the rescue of Jews by a foreign force, the Israeli commemorations also highlight those who, despite having no country of their own, no support network or supply lines actively fought and worked to defeat the Nazis and save as many lives as possible.  Those brave men and women were active all over Europe and North Africa, in forests, ghettos, towns and concentration camps and the wide variety of forms which the resistance took is echoed in Haim Gouri’s famous poem.

“Those who stole a loaf of bread – resisted

Those who taught in secret – resisted

Those who wrote, disseminated, warned and shattered illusions – resisted

Those who sneaked in a Torah scroll – resisted

Those who faked documents – resisted

Those who smuggled from one country to another – resisted

Those who kept a written record and hid it – resisted

Those who helped – resisted

Those who acted as couriers between prisoners and smuggled instructions and weapons – resisted

Those who fought hand to hand in the streets of the cities, in the hills and forests – resisted

Those who rose in revolt in the camps – resisted

Those who rebelled in the ghettoes, among the crumbling walls, in the most desperate revolt of all – resisted.”

In addition to the pledge of ‘never again’, the lesson of the Holocaust is also that we cannot and must not rely upon others to safeguard the Jewish nation. Our protection is our own responsibility and each one of us has a role, however small, to play in resisting those who, sixty-six years after the end of the Second World War, still seek to deny Jews the same rights as every other nation takes for granted.

The memorial to the Partisans and Ghetto fighters at Latrun (designed by Alexander Bogden – himself a former Partisan commander who passed away only last year) not only serves to commemorate the barely comprehensible bravery of those individuals who refused to be daunted by the insurmountable.

It also represents the continuation of that approach which underscored the establishment of the State of Israel itself and the I.D.F. and continues to inspire all of us who, in our own small ways, resist the types of ideologies which sadly did not fade into history with the liberation of Auschwitz-Birenau.

יהי זכרם לנצח אתנו

May their memory be with us forever.

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