Monday, April 20, 2009

Remember

My first memory even remotely related to the Holocaust was when I was in the fifth grade. I remember some one in my class saying nasty things about Germans, and I naively said, "Hey!! My grandmother's German!", thinking I was defending her honor. It was then that Chaya Gitty Fortgang said, in Yiddish, "Leider, leider", meaning something like "how sad for her." I had no idea why she felt sorry for my grandmother; the question lingered for quite some time.

I am not a child or grandchild of survivors, and as such did not grow up surrounded by memories as many of my friends did. The Holocaust became real to me in the ninth grade when the television mini-series, "Holocaust" was aired for the first time. Despite the terrifying nightmares I started to have, I could not stop watching the series. When it was over I was officially obsessed with anything Holocaust-related and began reading every book I could get my hands on. I also took the time to learn about how my family was affected. My maternal grandparents escaped Germany in the late thirties, but their families were decimated. My paternal grandparents, from Poland, also lost many of their family members.

The Holocaust is becoming further and further recessed into the pages of history, and Imore difficult for younger generations to feel a personal connection to. I pushed my kids tonight to attend the Modi'in Memorial Service, even though they will have ceremonies in their schools tomorrow. I want to burn this awful part of history into their psyche. I want them to remember those who were murdered and those who survived. I want them to remember the evil that existed then and that continues today. I want them to remember that at the time of the Holocaust there was no haven, no place a Jew could call home--a place he could return to if times became desperate.

I want them to remember. Always.

4 comments:

Leora said...

I think it is sad that you did not learn about the Holocaust from a teacher or a parent instead of from a fellow peer. In some ways it's like learning about the birds and the bees from a peer, but maybe worse. Sigh.

My fourth grade teacher taught us about the Holocaust. I remember being afraid to take a shower for a while. I was afraid of a lot of things.

Baila said...

You know, it's funny that you say that, Leora, that never occurred to me. But, I did go to a chassidish elementar school. The Klausenberger sect was torn to shreds by the Holocaust and the Klausenberger Rebbe that survived lost his wife and all of his 11 children. I think it was probably still to early for the administration to deal with it in the school--they themselves were probably survivors. I wonder how it is today....

ilanadavita said...

The Holocaust became real to me in the ninth grade when the television mini-series, "Holocaust" was aired for the first time.I think this was my first exposure to the reality of the Holocaust too.

Batya said...

Even though I'm older than you guys, I first learned about the Holocaust from the media's publicizing the Anne Frank Diary. Our family and neighborhood had parents raised in the US, no survivors.