TORONTO — Sometimes it can be hard for us to hear the cries of those in need. Sometimes these people may not make any sound at all. Arielle Wasserman wants us to pay particularly close attention to those silent moments.
That’s the 15-year-old’s message in her essay Silence Has a Sound, the winning submission in the province-wide Holocaust Arts and Writing Contest, sponsored by the Holocaust Centre of Toronto. The theme of this year’s event was silence.
“Silence is tangible, almost like an object. Think of it as a wide open chasm. It can be a dazzling white expanse of possibility, filled with pregnant pauses, and thoughts on the cusp of becoming words. This kind of silence is powerful and exhilarating. It is beautiful,” the Grade 10 Ulpanat Orot High School student wrote.
“However, more often than not, silence is a dark, ominous cloud, stifling all that should have been said, filled with lives that never were, choices that were never made.
This kind of silence feeds off regret and fear, off questions that went unanswered and dreams that were unfulfilled. Silence is powerful. Silence can kill. In 1939, it almost killed a nation.”
Regarding the world’s silence during the Holocaust, Arielle wrote: “It was then that the Jews realized no one would speak for them. They had to speak for themselves.”
The governments of Canada and the United States currently condemn anti-Semitism and support Israel, but she wonders if that could change.
“My only concern is that Canada and the U.S. support us now. And right now, they’re great – they’re pro-Israel, they’re pro-Zionism. But when things get harder, when things get scarier, who knows what they’re going to do?” she told The CJN.
“What was so shocking and petrifying about the Holocaust was that Germany was a civilized, westernized country – they were technologically advanced and they were well-respected. They were people just like us – it could’ve been any other country,” Arielle said.
She said that it’s also important to remember the five million non-Jews who perished during the Holocaust. “But at the same time, six million Jews makes this huge impact. And the whole point of talking about the Holocaust is to make sure it never happens again.
“Unfortunately, [many] people don’t care about the 700,000 Gypsies or the blacks or the homosexuals, because it’s more unrelatable, so I think we have to be incredibly careful not to diminish the enormity of the Holocaust.”
Arielle said the Holocaust can help to teach future generations about the consequences of hatred and intolerance. The first part of the learning process doesn’t necessarily have to be through understanding, but rather through remembering, she said.
“As long as they’ve done their part in remembering and therefore ensuring that it never happens again, however they get to that point is up to them.”
Arielle takes advanced placement university courses in English at Ulpanat Orot. She hopes to attend Columbia University after finishing high school, both for the quality of its programs and because she loves New York.