Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Day 3: Visiting Yad Vashem - Holocaust Remembrance

This afternoon, the SEC’s seminar participants visited Israel’s national Holocaust memorial at “Yad Vashem” where they paid their respects to the 6 million Jewish victims of the Nazi genocide during World War II. We traveled through the new museum and uncovered countless documents, photos and artifacts from the Holocaust. Often times scholars and teachers fail to convey the stories and impact of the Holocaust one the Sephardic Jews of Europe. At the same time the SEC’s seminar group learned more about some of the Sephardic victims of the Holocaust who primarily hailed from the large Greek port city of Salonica (a.k.a. Thessalonica). During 1943, roughly 50,000 of the city's Jews were deported to concentration camps, where most were murdered in Nazi death camps such as Auschwitz in Poland. On a sad note the group came across train tickets that Salonica Jews were actually fooled into purchasing so that they would pay for their death trips to Auschwitz. At the end of the war a little less than 2,000 Greek Jews from Salonica survived the genocide with the majority of the population being completely obliterated by the Nazis.

The sights and sounds of inside the Yad Vashem were often very difficult for those in our group to experience. I saw a number of them wiping away tears through out the entire visit. What was personally heartbreaking for me was to see the photos of the more than a million Jewish children who were murdered by the Nazi genocide. I couldn’t help but imagine what lives these children would have lead, or what achievements to humanity they might have been able to accomplish had they grown up or other ways in which they could have changed the world. The loss of so much innocent life was a tragedy for the Jewish people but also humanity because of the sheer magnitude of human life totally erased.

At the same time our tour guide for the day also made clear the message of many Jews worldwide and Israelis that Jews when it comes to the Holocaust that they will indeed never again allow another entity to eradicate them as the Nazis had had done. Acknowledging the Holocaust also helps all Jews (Ashkenazi and Sephardic) reinforce their sense of Zionism because of their determination to fight back and defend themselves when dictators or other extremists have had a chance to kill them off.

The below are just some of the snap shots I captured during our visit to Yad Vashem.

-- Karmel Melamed

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