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January 12, 2000
Religion teaches many of us the difference between good and evil. Parents teach us how to tell right from wrong. History teaches us that as humans we are capable of all of the above. We Trekkers love to travel and share stories with you about children who are busy playing, learning, exploring, having fun, and preparing for the lives ahead of them. But not all children are so lucky. Read on and learn about the tragic fate of the young children listed below and the million and a half kids who died the same way.
Samuel Akermann, age 4, Austria
Of all of the injustices throughout history, the one that touches the Jews of Israel the most is the Shoah, the Hebrew word for the Holocaust. From a very young age Israeli children are taught about the Shoah, one of the greatest atrocities in history. Committed in the 20th century, it was directed, above all, against the Jewish people. Every spring on Memorial Day, all Israelis unite, even if only for a brief moment, in remembrance of the Shoah. At mid-day a siren is heard throughout the country and life comes to a complete halt for several minutes. Traffic pauses, businesses stop, and Israelis, including many non-Jews, stand in solidarity with one another, paying homage to this tragedy and what it means to them personally. Almost every Jewish Israeli family has been affected by the Shoah. Their losses are not counted in numbers but, instead, remembered by name.
Adolf Hitler's vision of Nazi Germany was that of an empire lasting 1,000 years. Unfortunately for the world, it lasted a torturously long 12 years, during which the Nazis murdered millions (Jews and non-Jews) and left behind an entire world devastated by World War II. Of those killed, six million were Jews that had been specifically targeted for mass extermination, a brutal campaign which was carried out with great efficiency during the last four years of Nazi rule. Jews became prisoners and those who were strong enough were forced into hard labor. The ones that were deemed "useless" by the Nazis were destroyed. They included men, women, the elderly, and children.
Barbara Aal, age 6, Holland
The death camps of Treblinka, Auschwitz-Birkenau, Chelmno, Sobibor, Belzek and Majdanek killed thousands each day in their gas chambers while their cremated bodies blackened the skies over Europe. Just hearing these names sends chills up my spine in the way that words like "murder," "rape," "humiliation" and "torture" conjure up painful images to many. The memories of these and other concentration camps are permanently etched into the minds of survivors much like the prisoner numbers still tattooed into their flesh. These are the scars they've carried with them since youth.
Adalberg Berkovits, age 15, Hungary
For the hundreds of thousands of Jews who had miraculously survived the death camps the process of rebuilding their lives would last longer than the war itself. Many of the refugees searched in vain for their family members only to discover that they would never again be reunited with their loved ones. Most of their parents, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, cousins, and friends had all been killed. They had no homes or communities to go back to and felt that there was no longer a place for them among the nations of people, some of whom were Nazi collaborators who allowed for the destruction of their families.
Mania Halef, age 5, Soviet Union
Where would they go? Which of the nations of the world would take them in? Large nations, like the United States and Canada, callously blocked immigration, forcing 100,000 refugees to remain in Displaced Persons Camps for months. Britain was also impelled to restrict Jewish immigration to Palestine because of the already volatile situation between Arabs and Jews there. Only in this moment of desperation did the Zionist ideal of establishing a safe homeland for the Jews in Palestine seem to be an immediate necessity, and perhaps the only option. This singular hope was strong enough to motivate thousands of refugees out of the camps, trekking through the Alps, and onto illegal ships bound for Palestine. Not everyone was strong enough to complete this long journey successfully.
Anna Glinberg, age 10, Poland
Of the young Jews that survived the Shoah, many brought their experiences with them here to Israel and are still around to pass them on to those wise enough to listen. At first the stories sounded too outrageous to be believed. But the stories were like puzzle pieces that, when put together, began to form an historical picture no one had ever seen before. The first generation of survivors brought with them emotional baggage filled with nightmares. The terror that gripped them affected the way they tightly held on to their own families in Israel, some of whom were already in the shadow of former families that had perished.
Heinz Manfred Abraham, age 8, Germany
As a child with Jewish heritage, growing up in the U.S., I, too, was educated about the Holocaust in great detail and emotion. At times I allow myself to revisit my feelings about this terrible chapter in human history because only after exploring such a great sorrow can I truly appreciate the many joys of my life. Do you ever wonder whether another holocaust could ever happen after the Shoah? Unfortunately, we can once again look to history to provide us with the answer. Even Shoah survivors I've spoken with are alarmed by the genocide that continues around the world today. And so they continue to tell their stories to their children and grandchildren, so that future children will "never again" need to suffer as before. The Shoah is an experience that will remain, burning in the hearts of the Israeli people for generations.
and the list goes on and on...
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