The Smallest Effort Makes a Difference
By Melanie Secary
Golden, CO


 

Holocaust is a word that is taken far too lightly.  It has lost its meaning over the years.  The word Holocaust means a great destruction resulting in the extensive loss of life.  Instead of it being a heart wrenching word which reminds us of the pain and suffering of the Jews, gypsies, and homosexuals, it is now only a quick history lesson or a short book we read in our English class.  Where has all the compassion gone?  We need to open our hearts, to allow the reality of the Nazi camps and the lives that were forever changed, to touch us. When I was fifteen I had the opportunity to go to the most amazing place I have ever set eyes on. 

Israel.  It was a life changing trip, unlike anything I have ever experienced.  My mother and I did not go to sight see only, but to spend time with the people of Israel.  We were fascinated by their culture, their stories, and we learned more than any classroom could ever teach.  The two weeks we spent in Israel were the best two weeks of my life.  We went to dinner with local families, we visited ‘Ner Yaakov’, a home for Holocaust survivors, we took a group of children to the zoo, and so much more.  The children touched me the most.  Many of them had lost their homes and yet they were stronger than any adult I have met.  Visiting with the people of Israel left a mark in my mind and heart that I will keep forever.    We spent one day at Yad Vashem, Israel’s holocaust memorial museum.  Every room touched my heart in a different way.  My compassion would grow with each picture and artifact that I set eyes on.  I did not want to leave.  Mixed emotions of hatred and sadness overcame my thoughts.  How could anyone ever forget this?  Almost an entire population wiped out.  Yet, here we were, standing in the State of Israel, which has literally risen from the ashes of this holocaust.  This is something that needs to remain in our thoughts, not to haunt us but to be sure that nothing like this can ever happen again. The generation that experienced these horrors first hand are now growing quite old, this along with the new rise of holocaust deniers, gives us a renewed sense of responsibility.  It is now up to another generation to make people aware of the reality of the Holocaust.  We are so far away and sheltered here in the United States.   We generally cannot even imagine the suffering that is even now happening in parts of the world around us.  About a year after I went to Israel, my English class was reading Night by Eli Wiesel.

The book was short, and while we discussed what the Jewish people went through, it seemed to be just another lesson.  I was so unsatisfied that I was determined to do something.  I remembered my mother’s friend Malka Mittelman.  She had survived the Holocaust as a young girl and was always willing to share her story.  With my teacher’s permission, Malka came and spoke at my school the following week.   Hearing her personal account made the Holocaust more than just a short story to my fellow high school classmates.   She brought pictures, her yellow star, and shared her experiences of the war.  As I sat and listened to Malka’s story of pain, physical, mental, and emotional, it took my respect for her to a whole new level.  I will never forget the intensity in her eyes as she told her story.  Malka was stripped of everything she once called her own.  She and her parents survived the war, her older brother however, who she called her best friend, did not.  He is now with her only in her memories.   Malka told us how she would not have had the courage to keep pushing through, if it were not for her father.  She would think of how strong he was; “He was like a rock!” she would say as she clenched her fist together.  I asked her what it felt like to hear people now denying the Holocaust ever happened.  She choked on her words as she said, “People saying it’s not true is like the killing happening all over again, a second time.  It takes something away from each and every one of us and our people.”  Malka questioned why anyone would want to take that away from them.  She wiped a tear from under her eye as she quoted her grandmother before she passed away, “What kind of world is this? 

When Malka finished speaking, my friend Tara came to me in tears.  She held me tight and thanked me for bringing Malka.  Tara is a Muslim who recently moved here to Colorado with her family from Iraq.  She continued to thank me, and said that she had never really understood what the Holocaust was.  I remember Malka commenting how the dark haired girl in the front row had listened so intently; she was referring to Tara.  I can only hope that Malka’s talk touched everyone sitting in that room, but just knowing that it held such an impact on my Muslim friend made me thankful.  I was so grateful for Malka, I was thankful for every person who survived and could share the story for those who did not.  It encouraged me to do more because such a small effort had made a difference.  It had helped make a new generation aware that although the Holocaust is in the past, it must never be forgotten, so that it will never be repeated.                     

Whether it is a memorial museum, a speech, a story, or even a simple essay, the Holocaust needs to be remembered, and anyone that has the heart to do so should make some sort of attempt to make an impact.  This is my very own attempt, an essay to remind us that the greatest tragedies can arise from the smallest indifference to mistreatment and suffering.  The Holocaust must never be taken lightly, let it remind us to have love and compassion for hurting people around us.  We are all equal.

 

Works Cited

Guralnik, David B.  Websters New World Dictionary.  New York: Simon and Schuster Inc., 1984.The Holocaust.  23 April, 2008.  Members.  23 April, 2008.  http://members.aol.com/TeacherNet/Holocaust.html.Mittelman, Malka.  Personal interview.  April 2007.Mittelman, Malka.  Letter to student.  2000.
 


The opinions, comments, and sentiments expressed by the participants are not necessarily those of Holland & Knight LLP or the Holland & Knight Charitable Foundation, Inc.

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