Enshrining memory for all time
On the Perspectives page, Michele Alperin asks how will the Jewish people recall and memorialize the Shoah without any surviving eyewitnesses? It is more an anguish than a question, tears awaiting to be shed one forlorn day in a melancholy horizon not so far away.
The crimes have already been proved and recorded. We do not need the witnesses to prove the crimes. Rather, they are, like sentinels with outstretched swords, guardians of the record. And when the last guardian is gathered to his or her people, it will fall to us, their children, and then to our children in their turn, and for all generations for all eternity, to guard the “external” record of what happened during Nazi times.
To be sure, without the sentinels at hand, the malevolent of heart will assault the record. They already do. Their most vociferous champion resides in Tehran. In truth, however, the haters of Jews denied the record even as the misshapen, mistreated, emaciated corpses in the Nazis’ death camps were being tossed like so much dead wood into large burial pits for immediate, “hygienic” disposal. They always will.
But as Prof. Michael Marrus told The CJN in the Perspectives essay, the record has been scrupulously recorded and stored in universities, museums and libraries by credible, honorable historians to allow no doubts concerning the intent of the murderers or the means of the murders.
The “internal” record however, is a matter for the Jewish people to enshrine in our collective memory for all time, as we have done with Jewish history for more than 4,000 years. We add to the recitations that are recorded in our holy books, captured in our folklore, ritualized in our prayers, solemnized at our memorials and told countless times by mothers and fathers to daughters and sons.
Judging by the submissions The CJN received in response to the call for original prose and poetry for our annual Passover literary supplement, the process of securing the “internal” record has indeed been internalized.
More than half of the poetry and prose we published in the April 5 literary supplement, written by old and young alike, dealt with Holocaust-related themes. More than half of all the submissions we received dealt with Holocaust-related themes.
We will teach. We will pay honour. We will remember.
In the very words of the song sung by the partisans who fought the Nazis and their helpers, we will “never say that we have travelled the last road.” We will always and forever guard the record,
Mir zenen doh. Anachnu poh. Nous sommes ici. We are here.
We commemorate Yom Hashoah v’Hagvurah this year on April 19.