- Today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day. On January 27, 1945 the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp was liberated by Soviet Soldiers.
A number of my family members, Hungarian Jews, died at Auschwitz. Several of them miraculously survived, including 3 of my grandparents. I wrote a bit about this in the early days of my blog (read here), and also wrote about a different perspective in my series on Inspiring Women (found here), after reading a book called A Train in Winter.
Today is an official occasion to remember the horrors of the Holocaust and those who suffered and died or were impacted profoundly beyond the gates of those camps post-liberation. As well, we remember those that fought for freedom and helped to liberate all those whose lives were yet spared. More than remembrance, the events of WWII form a part of who I am. I will never pretend to truly fathom the experience of those who lived the Holocaust in reality, but somehow I feel that my very essence is made up of fiber impacted by those events. I was shaped in part by grandparents whose experiences were not at all unlike the books and movies that tell the personal stories of Holocaust survivors; of betrayal, loved ones lost, deaths witnessed, cruelty and violence undergone, spirits crushed and lives forever altered. My childhood was impacted by two grandmothers who physically survived Auschwitz itself but were left very different in their emotional and spiritual existence. Some who survived the Holocaust described themselves as having ‘died’ there.
Auschwitz and the other concentration camps were factories of dread and despair, but also some of the most beautiful aspects of humanity shone through in the relationships that formed there: love, companionship, kindness, empathy, hope, perseverance, sacrifice, courage, creativity.
I don’t really know how to observe this day, other than to reflect on the bravery and endurance of my family and all those who faced similar fates; to consider how fortunate I am to be free, safe, happy and privileged; to have been shaped by events that undeniably changed our world eternally; to be realistically aware of the capacity of man to do unimaginable harm; and to choose instead to ensure my impact on this world is positive.
Zichronam Liv’racha (Hebrew – may their memories be for a blessing)