Holocaust Remembrance Day – a time to remember, educate and act

By Sara Neidle

This evening marks Yom HaShoah – Holocaust Remembrance Day in the Jewish calendar. On this day, we commemorate the millions of lives that were lost during the Holocaust. It is one of the saddest and most emotional days in the year.

Tonight, I will be lighting a Yellow Candle, as part of a project of Maccabi GB, to remember the individual victims of the Shoah. I will be lighting a Yellow Candle in memory of Mosze Frenkiel of Tomaszoq, Poland who perished at Treblinka in 1942, aged 45 years.

Over the years, I have read and heard many stories about the Holocaust from survivors. For any of you who have heard a survivor, it is unbelievable. It is heart-breaking to hear what they experienced and how they fought for survival. The sorrow and heroism of the survivors to show what is possible. I have many friends, acquaintances whose grandparents and extended family went through the Holocaust. We must never forget!  

During my first year at university through an organised group I visited some of the death camps in Poland. I saw with my own eyes the infamous train tracks between Auschwitz and Birkenau. The inscription above the main gate of Auschwitz concentration camp: “ARBEIT MACHT FREI” (work makes you free). Thinking of this, as I write this piece makes me tremble. We stood inside a gas chamber and sang Hebrew psalms. As difficult as it was to see with my own eyes, I went there to honour those who were brutally murdered and those who survived the Holocaust. Words cannot describe the inhumanity. All I know, is that we are still here and still fighting.

During this past year, much has changed, and it has given us a new perspective on life. It has given us the opportunity to take a moment to reflect. There is so much to ponder. The pandemic has torn us in more ways than one – it has been awful, and many lives have been lost from something that is invisible to us.

I wrote a blog with a fellow colleague on International Holocaust Day. I wrote about how the current pandemic has taught us about the importance of preserving human life. It has reminded us of our shared humanity and the need to work together. The Holocaust really shows us what happens when hatred gets the best of us. It is sad to think that even with everything that is happening, anti-Semitism and racism is on the rise. A recent study of US adults between 18-39 showed that almost two-thirds did not know that six million Jews were killed during the Holocaust, 1 in 10 respondents did not recall ever having heard of the word ‘Holocaust’ before and believed that Jews caused the Holocaust.

We must take responsibility and fight discrimination in everyday life. It is everyone’s responsibility to speak up and ensure that anti-Semitism, discrimination, hatred is not allowed in the world that we live in. We are our own worst enemy if we just stand by and watch. As time goes on, there are fewer Holocaust survivors remain to tell us their stories – we must stay together, we must act now and educate the younger generation about the Holocaust.

As I light my Yellow Candle this evening, I light in hope that each one of you talks about the Holocaust to your children, family, friends, and colleagues, so that generations to come will continue to share and retell Holocaust survivors’ stories so that it is never forgotten.