Threat of a Forgotten Nightmare Memory
On Sundays, with a container of chocolate
chip pancakes, and my guitar, I anxiously entered the Hebrew Nursing Home.
The second my great grandmother saw me, she let out her Yiddish scream of
“Oy!” outstretching her arms to smother me with her kisses. I had her
smile engraved in my memory for the rest of the week, and it kept me going
until I could see her again. I always opened the window to let my
great-grandmother her hear the murmuring of the leaves as they discussed
what colors to turn next. I listened to her tales of the war times and
sang with her, old war songs to which she had forgotten half the words,
and those she remembered she screamed with all her might so that I did not
miss a sound. I wouldn’t have wanted to miss a single holler, kiss, or
smile. She once fed me a bottle; now I was left to quench her thirst for
the last sips of life.
My great grandmother was more than a pillar of faith, hope, and strength; she united our family under her beautiful aura of survival. One of her sisters was killed in a concentration camp, her husband, murdered under a Nazi gunpoint in Kiev. Never giving up, she took her two daughters and her elderly parents into partisan hiding. She raised our family with stories of Holocaust. She raised us to remember the hope and fortitude but not to forget the pain and struggle. In her old age, the horrors of her past came back to haunt her. She had visions of a Nazi who had come back to life in order to finish his job by taking hers. She would lock herself in the bathroom, punch holes through walls with her cane, screaming, all to protect herself from this hateful killer. Alas, nothing could protect her from the memories of her past. Placing my great grandmother in the Hebrew home was one of the hardest things for my family to endure, but she could only find refuge from the nightmares in the constant company of others. From her strife I have learned the nightmares of the reality she survived, nightmares of the Holocaust, nightmares that must be remembered.
Without the knowledge of what has transpired, it is impossible to prevent the reoccurrence of such a catastrophe. Before the Holocaust, there were 18 million Jews. By its conclusion, 6 million had died from the Holocaust itself and another 3 million deaths were never confirmed as being directly linked to the Holocaust. All of Israel, a nation established as a haven for the Jewish people, is made up of 5 million Jewish inhabitants, almost half the number of those that died during the Holocaust. (Ettinger,120) This population trend makes evident that the world has yet to recover from the magnitude of the Holocaust’s destruction.
Unfortunately, every year, the percentage of people believing the Holocaust to be a hoax increases. If the rate of this horrendous disbelief remains constant, in but a century, more than half of the world’s population will believe that the Holocaust never happened. (Ettinger, 236) A world where the Holocaust is just a myth is more than unthinkable; it is a terrifying thought and possible future reality. If future generations do not remember the innocent millions of Jewish deaths, then they will be blind to the consequences of all future injustices. Even the German Jews first saw Hitler as a leader that would save them from the great depression, unaware, and blind to the oven that he had in store for them. The youth of tomorrow must remember the dangers of prejudices, the power and domination of totalitarianism, and the suffering of their ancestors that made their lives today possible.
The Holocaust is an event that the world tried to ignore, before, during, and now after its occurrence. In 1933, when Jews tried to escape from Germany, they were rejected from every nation. America, the home of religious freedom, closed its doors to Jewish knocking. The all mighty British Empire refused to let the Jews step upon its land. On May 13, 1939, the St. Louis, a cruise ship packed with 937 Jews, sailed from Hamburg, Germany, fleeing the Nazi terror. A majority of those on board had paid for passage and carried papers which granted them legal disembarkation in Cuba. However, upon their arrival to Havana, they were not permitted to dock, but rather, were turned away to sail for Miami. Even when the United States was aware of the massacring of innocent Jews all over Europe, the U.S. Coast Guard intercepted the ship and warned it not to near US soil. The ship was forced to return to Europe, and inadvertently, its passengers were sentenced to an undeserved death at the claws of the Gestapo. (Johnson, 159) Finally, even after the Holocaust, when what was left of the Jewish people tried to leave their anti-Semitic lands, no country would let them in save for Israel. Had the world listened to the cries for help and the pleadings for safety, many deaths could have been prevented. It is vital that this ignorance be remembered, and that it serves as a lesson for future generations: to always hear those in peril and do anything and everything in their power to protect and help the oppressed.
The only way to prevent history from repeating itself is through knowledge. Future generations must be educated on both the past and the present: struggles for survival, injustices, and discrimination. The violence and gruesome deaths in the concentration camps of the Holocaust need to be emphasized so that they can be feared and hence avoided by future generations. People have yet to fully grasp the atrocities of the Holocaust since they are still committing them. The natives of Rwanda suffered a similar genocide massacre in 1994. The UN committee has concluded that there is a resurgence of anti-Semitism in Europe, mainly stemming from the Ukraine, Russia, and France. There are many disrespectful and neo-fascist acts still committed in Europe such as the destroying of Jewish graves in France and Germany. (Sharansky, 365)To prevent this discrimination in the future, the youth of tomorrow must open their minds to all that has occurred, absorb the pain, comprehend its depth, and strive to create a world based upon the lessons for which too many brave souls have already died.
The Holocaust can be defined as “a sacrificial offering that is consumed entirely by flames.” (American Heritage Dictionary) Millions of innocent Jewish lives have been sacrificed to live cremations, gas chambers, starvation, and death sentences too inhumane to originate from a man’s hand. Future generations should live remembering the Holocaust and passing on its story. It is only through remembrance that future terrors can be avoided. Our survival lies in the memory of what has occurred. If ever that memory be forgotten, the mythical nightmare reality shall live again.
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