Even though today was the Holocaust Memorial Day, I was not going to write about it. For me, growing up as the eldest grandchild of survivors, the Holocaust was never far from daily consciousness. I knew my family had suffered. I knew we had been persecuted. I knew many people with numbers tattooed on their forearms. I knew that owning a German car was frowned upon. I knew we had to remain vigilant. I knew it could happen again. And so, for me, the reminder to “Never Forget” was not necessary.
Then, my brother-the-rabbi posted this picture (or a version of it) on Facebook today:
Along with it, he wrote “…my grandparents whose response to Nazi persecution was a tree of life.” It suddenly occurred to me that, at ninety-eight and ninety-nine, my grandparents don’t have much time left to fertilize and nurture the tree they brought to life. And so, as first-born, I felt it necessary to reach out to my family this week.
Dear Siblings and Cousins,
First, Cousins, I want to note that the five of you also had a second set of grandparents who were Holocaust survivors. I hope you know how rare it was to be raised — being loved and supported — by such strong and courageous people. I feel privileged to have known them all. But soon Baba and Zaydie will be gone too.
Between us all, we have twenty-five (almost twenty-six :-)) kids. What will they remember of Baba and Zaydie? What will they know of the incredible legacy we were given? What will they tell their own children one day on Yom HaShoah? Will they vow to “Never Forget”? Will they stop, reflect, light a candle, shed a tear? Will they fight against intolerance and injustice? Will they rise up to help those who cannot help themselves? Will our background inspire them to perpetuate it…m’dor l’dor?
I am not trying to lecture or preach. I just am sad. I find myself on the precipice of a new era — one in which the stories will no longer be told first-hand. And without those voices, I worry that no one will listen anymore. Will we as parents and grandparents be able to transmit what we may have become numb to over the years? Will we remember the tales we heard over and over again and share them accurately? And if we do, will we be able to relay what we were supposed to have learned from them? Will WE be able to make THEM listen and learn?
Like it or not, soon there will be no more survivors. The task will fall to us to tell the stories and teach our children. Fortunately, our roots run deep. We have the experience, the knowledge, the hearts, and even Ancestry.Com to lead the next generations. It now is our turn… our time to take over…. our chance to remember those for whom we’ve been named… our responsibility to remember those who placed so much love and hope in us. The future depends on us… Never forget…