[by Rabbi Hillel Smulowitz]
On a cellar wall in Cologne, Germany, where Jews hid from the Nazis, the following poem was found.
I believe in the sun even when it not shining,
I believe in love even when feeling it now,
I believe in G-d even when he is silent.
Is G-d ever really silent? And if so, how do we interpret his silence? Elie Weisel was possibly the first to capture in his writing the unavoidable inner tension one feels when dealing with the Holocaust; namely that it is an event in human history so profoundly unbelievable, so distant and yet so personal that we are numbed into silence and yet uncontrollably compelled to speak.
We talk about it and write about it so that we may remember and also grieve. Certainly history teaches us that hatred and prejudice, if unopposed, leads only to pain, social calamity and spiritual darkness.
Anyone who views the Holocaust as a Jewish problem is clearly living in illusion. For the way in which a society reacts to its cultural diversity, the way it treats its minorities is an unmistakable barometer of its mental health. Eleven million lives!
All those individual hopes and dreams that could have influenced the course of mankind, found a cure for cancer, etc. Eleven million souls Jews, Christians, gypsies deprived the right to experience life, to enjoy a sunset or derive joy from children.
How do we deal with grief related to the Holocaust? First of all, let us never forget what happened, but never become cynical about life. People have demonstrated an unlimited capacity for good.
In order to enter the main sanctuary of the Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem, one must first pass through the “Corridor of the Righteous Gentile.”
It is a very moving experience. Hundreds of acts of heroism by Catholics and Protestants helping Jews at the risk of losing their own life. It was through the involvement of caring countries and military resistance that they were able to drive out the Germans in 1944.
In 1980, Congress passed a resolution to have one week each year as “Days of Remembrance of Victims of the Holocaust.”
While studying in Israel, I attended the Eichman Trial, and this forever changed my life.
Note – Rabbi H. Smulowitz has served as a pulpit rabbi, day school principal and an army chaplain until retirement.