Rising from the Ashes
by Forest Rain, Lionheart April 25, 2006
Today, the day now coming to a close, was Israel’s Holocaust Memorial Day. Once a year the nation takes a day to remember, to listen to the stories, to cry and contemplate.
In other countries (those who bother) people talk about remembering or commemorating the Holocaust. In Israel the day is officially named “The day of remembering the Holocaust and remembering heroism.”
Memory is a tricky thing. Can you remember something that didn’t actually happen to you but rather to your grandparents? Or your great-grandparents?
Part of the ritual of the Pessach holiday speaks of remembering being slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt. One verse reads: “In every generation people rise up against us, to exterminate us and every time God saves us from their hands.”
Memory of the Holocaust is tattooed on some of our bodies. For all of us – survivors, first generation children of survivors and for the second and third generations after – to some extent or another, the horrors of the Holocaust are seared into our souls. The effects reverberate through the generations.
Like a painful letter shoved in an attic corner, the memory of the Holocaust is something that Jews rarely look at. It is terrible and gut-wrenching but when we move to a new home, like all other memories, our possession, this too is packed up and brought to the new home. Memorial Day is the day we force ourselves to go up into the attic, shine light on the letter and read it. The pain is raw but this is the fire that forged us. We are who we are because we rose from those ashes.
Today I heard a Holocaust survivor say that the one thing he wants his granddaughters to remember is the experience of their now deceased grandmother. When the concentration camp was liberated their grandmother, then a young girl, did not want to come out of her hiding place. She was alive and there was no one to tell. No mother, no father, no brother, no sister… This survivor didn’t continue speaking because he couldn’t; he was too choked up to be able to express himself.
When I hear a story like this I am reminded of why, this day is called “The day of remembering the Holocaust and remembering heroism.” I’m sure most people think of people like Oscar Schindler when they hear the words Holocaust and hero together in the same sentence but that overlooks so much heroism and nobility of the human spirit.
Heroism is in the fact that the girl who had no one in left in the world to care that she survived DID leave the concentration camp. How much strength and dignity does it take to walk out of the horrors of such a place? After humiliation, starvation, torture and psyche twisting experiences we can’t even imagine? How is it possible to create a life for yourself after your world was so cruelly shattered, smashed to smithereens?
That girl did it. So did millions of others.
That is heroism.
That girl not only left the concentration camp – she moved to Israel, grew up, married, and had children and grandchildren. She rose from the ashes of her parents’ corpses to create new life.
That is heroism.
Heroism is the foundation of this country. Israel was built on heroism and survives because of it. And that is definitely worth remembering!