My name is Yechiel Michoel Friedman. I was murdered in Auschwitz and don’t you ever forget me.
This speech was delivered by Benjamin Brafman, Esq. on Yom HaShoah.
I am standing in the gas chamber naked with hundreds of innocent Jews. My wife, Malka, whose terrified eyes were already dead, is next door holding our daughter, Sima. Sima’s husband, Yaakov, is with me. We have already watched our Chayala cremated. We are already dead – the gas will just kill us again.
We know we are not in a shower. We know we are in a gas chamber. We know we are going to die and we all know that we did nothing wrong and we also know that a civilized world did this to us, that a civilized world abandoned us.
We are afraid to die, of the brutal, choking, burning death that is upon us, but we are so much more afraid that nobody will ever know that we lived, that nobody will ever know that we were a good family; that we had beautiful, good children and that we had a beautiful grandchild. I was so afraid that nobody would ever know; that nobody in my family or in anyone else’s family would survive; that the “final solution” was really going to be final. Let me tell you something….
You think you know about prayer – you think you know about faith because you are religious or because you pray every day?
Let me tell you about real prayer, about real belief – in my gas chamber, as gas filled our lungs, as flames burned off our skin, we screamed “Ani Maamin,” we believe in you Hashem.
With our dying breath we screamed, “Shma Yisroel Hashem Elokenu Hashem Echad” – my last words screamed through gas filled lungs, as I died, so afraid that my entire family had been, or soon would be, murdered.
What wrenching sadness, what anger rose in my heart and raged through my mind – I pleaded to Hashem, not to be spared, but for nekama, for revenge! How, when, who would ever make this right, or get even for us, who would be alive to say Kaddish for us – to light a candle on our Yahrzeit – no graves, no headstones – no one alive to mourn our death – to even know of our life.
Well, I am not here tonight in person. Yechiel Michoel Friedman was murdered at Auschwitz, but we were not all murdered that day, or the next day and some of my children, some of your children did survive and today, our children, our grandchildren, our great-grandchildren and now even our great-great-grandchildren are alive. We live in the United States and all over the world as proud Jews, and we have Eretz Yisrael – do you hear that you Nazi murderers? We have Israel, a nation built by survivors. We have a Jewish army and a Jewish state. Our people are strong. We have powerful, eloquent voices demanding to be heard.
My daughters, Hencha and Hinda, who were tortured for years, did not die and my daughter, Ruchele, who at age 15 escaped to America, married Shlomo Brafman, who also escaped – they did not die and their children and my grandchildren and great-grandchildren are growing up as Shomer Shabbos Jews and tonight, my grandson is speaking for me in a shul with 1,000 proud, strong Jews wSo I do not have my life, but I have my revenge. In fact, my little boy, Meir, who they tried so hard to murder, he lived too. At age 16, he weighed 45 lbs. when found alive in a pile of corpses at Auschwitz.
When liberated, he went to Israel, to Israel, where for 50 years he was a soldier in Tzahal – Israel’s army. A Jewish hero, he fought for 50 years in Israel’s army. My son, my Kaddish, he did not die in Auschwitz either. How proud I was to watch as he put on the uniform of an Israeli soldier to fight for our country, a Jewish community.
I am very sad and very angry and bitter that I did not get to enjoy the world of nachas that was mine, a world of nachas and pride and Yddishkeit that I had a right to live through and enjoy.
The Nazis hurt me beyond words, but they did not win.
Ladies and gentlemen, they only win if you forget – or now, if you allow the world to deny. They only win if we do not cry real tears when we hear about the slaughter of the Fogel family in Itamar.
They only win if you cannot hear my Chayala screaming or feel the terror of Tamar Fogel, or her grandparents who must now face a quality of grief so savage that it is hard for you to grasp.
Trust me – I know about the murder of a child and a grandchild and how that impacts on everything else. How everything else is forever shrouded in death and overwhelming sadness. The Fogel family will never recover but they cannot be forgotten.
Here we are in a beautiful shul, with so many Jews. Good Jews. Strong, proud people who have not forgotten us, me, my family, your families – the parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, the children, the grandchildren – the babies who were murdered and gassed and buried alive.
It is okay to cry for what we lost, for what was taken from you, for the lives lost, the nachas of family we were deprived of.
Cry for us. We cry for you too, for what you lost, for the family you never met, for the millions of good, sweet Jews who did not live – for the students who never finished their studies, for the scientists and artists and musicians and teachers and Rebbes who never got the chance to excel, to perform, to teach, to cure, to live.
It’s okay to cry for the children who never got to play, or sing, or laugh, who were put to death with such violence, with so much hatred that I cannot describe it in words as for certain levels of grief, there are no words. It is so bad that it cannot even be imagined by any decent human being, impossible to process rationally.
But you must, because today, people are already questioning whether the Holocaust really happened. World leaders and scholars are already denying the Holocaust; they are challenging even the integrity of a handful of survivors, the eyewitnesses who are still alive, those who saw the horror with their own eyes. Even these heroic survivors are being doubted and am so afraid that in coming years, vicious, anti-Semitic revisionists will tamper with history and the truth and we cannot – you cannot allow that to happen ever – never…
I had a granddaughter, a charming, beautiful little baby girl named Chaya Sarah and she was murdered in front of my eyes and although her neshama, her soul, is in heaven with me, her memory must be emblazoned in your hearts forever.
If our memory is really to be for a blessing, for our neshamos to really have the aliyah you ask for, an aliyah we have earned and paid so dearly for, then you must remember.
You must make certain that your children and their children understand what happened to their family, to your family, to all of our families, or it will happen again.
You think it cannot happen again? Why? Because you have good lives – you live in civilized times? We had a good life – we lived in civilized times. We were happy and complacent, but we were not vigilant and we walked right into a Holocaust.
Our neighbors, an entire nation of ordinary men and women of intelligence and breeding and culture turned into monstrous, murderous animals who withdrew from humanity and imposed a level of brutality on us that cannot now be described and could not then, ever have been predicted – but that is exactly what happened.
It was even worse than the worst true story that any survivor can report, because the brain is not capable of capturing so much grief without exploding, so even those who survived, who saw it all, cannot fully capture the full horrific ordeal, the vicious detail.
Only a victim like me, only someone who did not survive, can tell you the whole, bad, ugly, demented, terrible truth about our murder, of six million murders.
That, my friends, is why I chose to speak to you through my grandson from my seat in heaven and although Hashem does not permit me to tell you “why” these terrible things happened, I am commanded to discuss “what” happened.
To tell you “what” happened with clarity and force, so that hopefully some people in this room will never doubt the Shoah and you will take it upon yourself to confront anyone who dares to deny it and make them hear my story – your story, the sad but true stories of our families, whom we too often refer to as the “Six Million,” but rarely if ever refer use their names.
We have names. Our lives were taken, but they cannot take our names.
My name is Yechiel Mechoel Friedman. I was murdered at Auschwitz with my wife, Malka and my daughter, Sima, her husband, Yaakov Weiss and my granddaughter, Chaya Sarah.
Can you see them? I see them and I also see Tamar Fogel and the bodies of her family being carried through Itamar for burial; not 70 years ago – last month. People with names and lives taken in the dark – only because they were Jews.
My name is Yechiel Michoel Friedman. I was murdered in Auschwitz and don’t you ever forget me.
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