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Sunday was Yom Hasho’ah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. Last year at this time, I wrote about my personal experiences growing up as the grandson of four Holocaust survivors and quoted the Rav on the Jewish approach to mourning. This year, I want to share an excerpt from Gideon Hausner‘s powerful opening statement in the trial of Adolf Eichmann. Hausner was Israel’s attorney general, 1960-63, and chief prosecutor in the Eichmann trial. Here’s how he began (translation taken from The Jew in the Modern World):

When I stand before you here, Judges of Israel, to lead the Prosecution of Adolf Eichmann, I am not standing alone. With me are six million accusers. But they cannot rise to their feet and point an accusing finger towards him who sits in the dock and cry: “I accuse.” For their ashes are piled up on the hills of Auschwitz and the fields of Treblinka, and are strewn in the forests of Poland. Their graves are scattered throughout the length and breadth of Europe. Their blood cries out, but their voice is not heard. Therefore I will be their spokesman and in their name I will unfold the awesome indictment.

The history of the Jewish people is steeped in suffering and tears. . . . Yet never, down the entire blood-stained road traveled by this people, never since the first days of its nationhood, has any man arisen who succeeded in dealing it such grievous blows as did Hitler’s iniquitous regime, and Adolf Eichmann as its executive arm for the extermination of the Jewish people.
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For the purposes of Nazi Germany’s internal policy, the Jew was a convenient object of hatred; he was weak and defenseless. The world outside remained silent when he was persecuted, and contented itself with verbal reactions that did little harm. The Jew was pilloried as a supporter of Communism – and therefore an enemy of the German people. In the same breath he was accused of being a capitalist – and therefore an enemy of the workers. National-Socialism had found in the Jew an object of hostility appropriate to both halves of its name, and it set him up as a target for both national enmity and class hatred. . . .

A confused and blinded world was not alarmed by this campaign of hatred and the denial of human rights. It did not understand that the persecution of the Jews was only the beginning of an onslaught on the entire world. The man whose henchman howled the infamous words: “When Jewish blood spurts from the knife/Then all goes doubly well!” (“Wenn Judenblut vom Messer spritzt/Dann geht’s nochmal so gut!“) – the same man would soon, by natural development and led by the same master-feeling of hate, proclaim that all the cities of England would be subjected to the same fate as bombed Coventry.

May we never forget the six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust and may we forever honor their memory.

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There are some comments that one hears throughout life that one knows, intuitively, to be profound and important, even without completely understanding them at the time.  I heard one such comment the other day while listening to a lecture by R. Yoel Bin Nun, an Israeli Bible scholar.  He tells the same story in an article he wrote on the Biblical meaning of the word “Emunah.”  I’ll copy the Hebrew below, with a rough translation.  In the spoken version he added some background on the poet in question, saying that he came from an assimilated family and only became religious after the Holocaust.  He was in the Bergen-Belsen camp.
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Last Sunday was Yom Hasho’ah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. All four of my grandparents are Holocaust survivors so the day is a personal one for me. I grew up with the Holocaust looking over my shoulder, hearing stories from family members about the terror that Germany inflicted upon Europe’s Jews. My maternal grandfather, in particular, spoke about the family members he lost so often that I feel like I know them personally.

From a religious perspective, addressing the Holocaust is a daunting, if not impossible, task. (more…)

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