As the Jewish community marked Yom HaShoah last week, Senior Vice President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews Laura Marks has blogged on the poignancy of events held in communities across the world.
I sat in silence today at 11am for just a few minutes. For today was Yom Hashoah, the Day of Utter Destruction or the Day of Catastrophe, the day we as Jews put aside to remember the murder of six million of our people by the Nazi regime for no reason other than that they were Jewish. For Yom Hashoah is our day, a Jewish day, a day where we look inwards and imagine just a tiny piece of the horror which, luckily, most of us didn’t experience and hopefully never will.
Yom Hashoah is different from Holocaust Memorial Day which was established to remember the Holocaust, the other victims of the Nazis, and the subsequent genocides in Rwanda, Cambodia, Bosnia and Darfur. Yom Hashoah is unashamedly Jewish and gives us time to reflect specifically on the Jewish loss.
Moving back to my computer, I went on line to watch a phenomenon of our time, the March of the Living, taking place in Poland at Auschwitz, the epicenter of the Holocaust all those years ago. At the annual March of the Living thousands of young Jewish people, many from the UK, literally walk, full of life back into Auschwitz bringing youth, vibrancy and hope to one of the darkest places on earth. As the young people filed into the compound, a narrator read out the names and ages of just a few of the children murdered, some as young as one year old and most well under 11 – still at primary school yet with no future.
And then I moved to a totally different form of commemoration, a video of a highway in Israel today where, at the sound of the siren, cars were literally slowing, stopping and the drivers getting out to stand in respectful silence. Our stereotype idea of noisy, impolite Israelis is totally confounded by this most incredible collective act of unity.
As I look back on the day I am grateful for life, for peace and for the opportunity to move beyond the holocaust yet at the same time for being able to commemorate those dark days in Europe. I am grateful to our young people for marching and for those motorists for stopping and for the opportunity to join Yom HaShoah events.
Yesterday, as we gathered together in North London for a special service to mark the 70th anniversary of liberation, I can take comfort in knowing that around me Jews today, and non Jews on Holocaust Memorial Day, are sharing the responsibility of remembrance and working to ensure that we learn our lessons from history, once and for all.