We strive to remember the past, live in the present and plan for the future. The memories of the events that took place during the Holocaust are often too painful for those who survived to recount.
The stories we have been witness to clearly show the reason so many survivors will not speak of those times. We must, however, remember where we came from to effectively decide where we are going.
The Nazis murdered our families and tried to remove Jewish people from the face of the earth. Some survivors, thankfully, are still with us and are able to tell us their experiences and how they endured the horrors that were laid before them. We must all keep the memory of those we lost alive; we must prevent such atrocities from reoccurring.
The sounds of soldiers pounding on doors in the middle of the night. The horror of being told to pack one suitcase and be on the street for relocation. Ghettos, overcrowded and devoid of basic needs such as sanitation, food and medicine. Families separated never to see each other again. Events that are unimaginable to most of us today were the beginnings of what was to be the most horrific event in our history.
The death camps along with killing squads, the Einsatzgruppen, were responsible for the deaths of 6 million Jewish people. Death camps had been constructed and deportation from the ghettos was in full operation. Transport by train in overloaded cattle cars ran constantly and the gas chambers and crematoria were in operation 24 hours a day. The SS were tasked with the total annihilation of the Jewish people and carried out their task with great efficiency.
It is on the day of Yom Hashoah that we remember and honor those that were taken from us. This memorial provides a place to honor those who were given no resting place.
Through the act of remembrance, we fortify the ground on which we now stand. Saying Kaddish for the 6 million, 1.5 million of them children, not only honors those we lost but, in our hearts, perhaps we receive strength from them to continue the journey forward. Our community is strong and vibrant, yet we often overlook the foundation of our heritage. This foundation must be kept strong in order to support the weight of the future we wish to construct upon it.
We are very proud and fortunate to have Hershel Greenblat as our speaker for Yom Hashoah. Hershel has a remarkable story of survival. His parents met as members of a resistance group and married in 1940. They went into hiding in a cave in the Ukraine, sharing their hiding place with others who, through their resourcefulness, managed to survive and fight. Hershel was born in the cave in 1941 and did not see the light of day for the first two years of his life. Through the amazing strength and determination of Hershel’s parents, the family managed to survive the war despite the wounds his mother received and the imprisonment of his father by the Russians. At the end of the war, Hershel’s sister Ann was born and, after they traveled to a Displaced Persons camp in Salzburg, his sister Ethel was born. The family spent five years living in the DP camps.
Eventually making their way to the United States, Hershel’s father opened a grocery store in a neighborhood called “Buttermilk Bottom” in Atlanta, aiding those in need in his community. Hershel attended school in Atlanta, learning to adapt to his new surroundings and become a part of the community. He is now dedicated to speaking to groups, keeping his family’s story alive and teaching their history. Yom HaShoah is a national day of commemoration on which the 6 million Jews murdered in the Holocaust are memorialized. It is a community-wide commemoration jointly sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta, Eternal Life-Hemshech and the William Breman Jewish Heritage Museum.
Please join us to bear witness to Hershel’s experiences and to honor, remember and celebrate those who lost their lives during the Holocaust. The service will be held at 11 a.m. May 5 at the Memorial to the Six Million at Greenwood Cemetery.
Marc Huppert is a board member of the William Breman Jewish Heritage Museum. For more information, visit www.thebreman.org.