Never Again

(Alex) We went to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem. It reminded me of the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg — the time frames building by room — from how Hitler gained power to people learning that the war was finally over. I had learned about the Holocaust in 7th grade English from Daniel’s Story, so I had a good understanding about this terrible time. The entire experience was really moving.

I think what shook me the most was that a) this wasn’t very long ago at all and b) that my grandfather had barely escaped this terrible fate. He and his parents escaped to London, but he had a cousin murdered in Auschwitz and family who survived Terezin. I actually had family members in this horror! Millions of innocent, happy people, losing everything — homes, clothes, possessions, families, friends and even lives. 6 million Jews murdered!

Also what moved me were the peoples’ stories. The survivors watching their families, friends and everyone else die — shot by German soldiers, killed by acid gasses that people thought were showers, electrocuted by fences to keep inmates in. Starvation was a huge problem; men and women were walking skeletons.

One man who lived to tell his story about Auschwitz literally turned into an animal at that age of 14 — stealing so he could survive, not helping his collapsed father so he wouldn’t be shot — anything that would help him survive. It was scary.

Everything in the museum was so real; all objects were original, and all stories were true. I felt like I was there. The Hall of Names held hundreds of books, each holding the names of 8,400 victims. The videos, these books, the pictures. I will never forget.

(Dana) I too have learned about the Holocaust through other media, but two new things stood out to me:

1. I had no idea of the extent or intensity of the hatred toward Jews across Europe before the war. It wasn’t just Hitler; Jews were feeling unwelcome in plenty of places where they had been assimilated for generations. Because Jews couldn’t own land, many made their living as merchants, bankers and lawyers. Ironically, they ended up being persecuted for the only economic path many had. Hitler became the catalyst, but plenty others were either supportive, complicit or conveniently blind.

2. While standing in the Children’s Garden, a tribute to the children killed, our guide pointed out, “if you want to exterminate a race, you destroy the roots; the children.” Just wipe them out with no compassion. Must have been absolute torture for the parents. Women dying trying to protect their children; others watching their children murdered in front of them. Hundreds of thousands going together to the chambers. Perhaps this would have been better than watching a guard take your child by the ankle and whack them against a brick wall like a rug. Exterminating a race. Almost unimaginable.

As painful as it was, Iím glad we are teaching our own children about Shoah — the horrible, the worst imaginable, the Holocaust. Never again.

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4 Responses to “Never Again”

  1. Wow… what an intense experience… and especially with you having a direct family connection…

  2. did you get to go to the west wall?

  3. whoops accidently pressing submit. I also have a living family member who was in the holocaust

  4. Alex Martiros 17. Nov, 2010 at 4:23 pm

    Hearing that must have been life-changing. I would have been equaly shocked and you all are so lucky to learn more about it. Did your family member make it out alive? Miss you all!