Remembering the Holocaust

Today Israel remembers the Holocaust and honors those who died and survived.

I suggest each person who visits today take a few moments to learn more about the Holocaust and why the need exists for reminders that it happened.

Many of you visiting, had you lived under the Nazis, would have likely been exterminated too. You (and I) would have been part of the mentally defectives, the less desirables. Most people don’t know that along with six million Jews, a number of Gypsies, homosexuals and other groups considered to be “less than,” mental defectives – persons with mental illness, epilepsy and mental retardation – were systematically exterminated to cleanse the race.

Nearly a quarter million mental defectives died at the hands of the Nazi eugencis program.

The effect of the principles at work here that children call each other names and say “you’re crazy; you’ll be sent to the baking oven in Hadamar”…

…Letter from Dr. Hilfrich, Bishop of Limburg, to the Reich Minister of Justice, August 13, 1941 (Trials of War Criminals Before the Nuernberg Military Tribunals – Washington, U.S Govt. Print. Off., 1949-1953, Vol. I, p. 845-846).

I remember my birthday when I was living in the Soviet Union shortly before it fell apart and visited Kiev. Because it was my birthday, I was given the honor of placing flowers at the memorial of Babi Yar, just outside the city. Babi Yar is the site of yet another massacre by the Nazis, where approximately 100,000 Soviet civilians – many of them Jews – were rounded up over a period of two days and executed.

The first to die were the 700 patients of a psychiatric hospital.

I urge you to visit a photographic tour from several years ago by a small group of psychiatric survivors. The “Freedom from Fear Tour” explores the history of the extermination of “mental defectives” under the Nazis.

Freedom From Fear

Other sites worth visiting:

Yom Ha’Shoah blog roundup

Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC

Deadly Medicine: Creating the Master Race, a new exhibit at the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta

I leave you with the poem Babi Yar by one of my favorite poets of all time, Yevgeny Yevtushenko.

Babi Yar by Yevgeny Yevtushenko
No monument stands over Babi Yar.
A drop sheer as a crude gravestone.
I am afraid.
Today I am as old in years
as all the Jewish people.
Now I seem to be
a Jew.
Here I plod through ancient Egypt.
Here I perish crucified, on the cross,
and to this day I bear the scars of nails.
I seem to be
The Philistine
is both informer and judge.
I am behind bars.
Beset on every side.
spat on,
Squealing, dainty ladies in flounced Brussels lace
stick their parasols into my face.
I seem to be then
a young boy in Byelostok.
Blood runs, spilling over the floors.
The barroom rabble-rousers
give off a stench of vodka and onion.
A boot kicks me aside, helpless.
In vain I plead with these pogrom bullies.
While they jeer and shout,
“Beat the Yids. Save Russia!”
some grain-marketeer beats up my mother.
0 my Russian people!
I know
are international to the core.
But those with unclean hands
have often made a jingle of your purest name.
I know the goodness of my land.
How vile these anti-Semites-
without a qualm
they pompously called themselves
the Union of the Russian People!
I seem to be
Anne Frank
as a branch in April.
And I love.
And have no need of phrases.
My need
is that we gaze into each other.
How little we can see
or smell!
We are denied the leaves,
we are denied the sky.
Yet we can do so much –
embrace each other in a darkened room.
They’re coming here?
Be not afraid. Those are the booming
sounds of spring:
spring is coming here.
Come then to me.
Quick, give me your lips.
Are they smashing down the door?
No, it’s the ice breaking …
The wild grasses rustle over Babi Yar.
The trees look ominous,
like judges.
Here all things scream silently,
and, baring my head,
slowly I feel myself
turning gray.
And I myself
am one massive, soundless scream
above the thousand thousand buried here.
I am
each old man
here shot dead.
I am
every child
here shot dead.
Nothing in me
shall ever forget!
The “Internationale,” let it
when the last anti-Semite on earth
is buried forever.
In my blood there is no Jewish blood.
In their callous rage, all anti-Semites
must hate me now as a Jew.

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