By Rabbi Dr. Bernhard H. Rosenberg
I personally feel no guilt for having the God-given privilege of being alive. I mourn for my grandparents, uncles, and aunts who perished at the hands of Nazi maniacs; often weeping for not having experienced their love. I cry in anguish when reminded that six million of my brethren, young and old, left this earth via gas chambers and crematoriums. I sense the pain of my family and friends who saw their elders shot before their very eyes and their babies hurled against brick walls and bayoneted. I experienced deep anger when I viewed the numbers branded on the arm of my father, of blessed memory. Yet I thanked God for sparing the lives of my beloved parents.
Yes, I blame humanity for remaining silent while my innocent brethren perished screaming in terror for someone to heed their outcries. Humanity; not God. We are not puppets to be controlled by our Creator. People caused the Holocaust; people remained silent. Leaders of countries refused to intercede on behalf of the defenseless.
Should I then hate humanity? Should I live with anger in my heart, rebelling against the environment, rejecting those of other faiths and cultures? Perhaps I should bend in fear like a blade of grass when the winds of anti-Semitism turn toward me. Perhaps I should walk along the rocky paths of society fearing what the future may bring.
I openly and candidly answer in the negative. No, I will not live in a shell of neurotic chaos, and I will not reject society. I refuse to live in a world which rejects hope, receiving nourishment from the seeds of hatred.
I admire and respect my beloved parents, Jacob and Rachel, of blessed memory, and honor them for their strength and courage. Even Auschwitz could not diminish their faith. They could have rejected humanity; instead they aided others in their daily fight for existence. No, a world of anger and hostility was not their banner.
Now that I am an orphaned adult, I appreciate even more the impact that my parents had upon me. All that I am and all that I ever will be I owe to them. They instilled within me pride and fortitude; their motto became my personal outcry, “Never Again.”
Refuse to discuss the Holocaust? Sweep these memories under the rug? No-this is not our mission to the world and ourselves. Let the truth be known! Let others realize what the world did to an ethical, moral and religious populace. Let them hear the testimony of valiant survivors. Let them see our courage.
Feeling no guilt for surviving, for speaking on behalf of children who we silenced? Never!
I became a rabbi to aid the living, to ensure our survival; to rekindle the Jewish flame. I am proud; proud of my heritage, proud of our strength, and proud of my beloved parents.
Contrary to what we are told, the passage of time does not ease our pain, nor does it diminish the scope of the horror that was the Holocaust.
Oh yes, there are those, few in number, who feel that it is psychologically healthier to avoid reminders that keep painful and unpleasant events alive. Why subject our young to the brutal story of Nazi bestiality toward the Jewish people? What purpose will it serve? It would be wiser not to talk about it so that it can disappear.
Never! We must never stop telling this story. Tell it we must, in every gory detail! We must do this because it is our sacred duty to alert them to the evils of men, so that they will never be lulled into a false sense of safety and security. We must alert them so that our children will be vigilant and will never be caught unaware as were the Jews who perished in the Holocaust. This is the message I emphasize to my beloved children, Ilana, Ayelet, Yaakov and Ari and thirteen grandchildren.
Although we are cognizant that our children will be adversely affected, that they will feel great pain upon learning the true facts of the Holocaust, we know that this is something we must do.
I urgently beg of you, my fellow children of Holocaust survivors, keep alive the memory of the courage and will to live possessed by your parents. Time is growing short. Soon, like my parents of blessed memory, they will have left this world. Speak with them now. Learn all you can about their Holocaust experiences and about your grandparents and great-grandparents. Communicate with them before it is too late! This is our mission. This we must vow to do. Join me, my fellow Holocaust brothers and sisters, in this holy mission. Let us join hands and loudly acclaim, “We will keep the memory of the Holocaust alive”. Recently the Chronicle had a picture of the first 2g High School graduates. They must have been born right after the Shoah in 1946. What a blessing. Most survivors have passed away and we now must keep their memory alive.
I cannot sleep. One thought passes throughout the night. I , a 2G, am only a few years younger than the youngest holocaust survivors. Who will be the voices of the holocaust when we are gone.? Some answered our children and grandchildren. Wish it were so. I believe we 2g’s have the strongest attachment to the survivors and that after we are gone all the museums, books, and movies will not stop the holocaust from just becoming a date in history, another genocide. It hurts me to say so.
I have spent my life writing holocaust books, curriculum, articles and teaching holocaust studies but soon the survivors will be gone and the revisionists will go to work with vigor. It is already happening today. What is the solution to safeguard holocaust memory? The Shoah must be incorporated into religious ritual. It must be part of the Haggadah, the machzor, High Holiday and other Jewish holidays. Eventually the Shoah should become part of the Tisha B’Av service and other fast days. Perhaps the Shoah should be a day of fasting with the lighting of six candles and reciting kel moleh and kaddish. special holocaust orientated prayers. I ask that no one be upset at me for predicting the future observance of the shoah, but this is what I truly believe.
Rabbi Dr. Bernhard H. Rosenberg is Rabbi Emeritus of Congregation Beth-El, Edison of New Jersey. He received his ordination and Doctorate of Education from Yeshiva University in New York. He also possesses A.A., B.A., M.A., and M.S. degrees in communication and education. He possesses a Doctorate of Divinity Degree from The Jewish Theological Seminary, New York. He taught at Rutgers University in New Jersey and Yeshiva University in New York. Rabbi Rosenberg’s book, “Theological and Halachic Reflections on the Holocaust” is now in its second printing.