The view from my veranda

International Holocaust Remembrance Day

27th January, 2022

Shabbat Shalom to one and all.

I have been going over and over in my mind as to what I should write to you today, 27th January, 2022, International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Never Again is so banal, in fact it really means nothing since it is happening again, over and over again louts around the world see fit to beat up Jews, or should I say “Obvious Jews”. What an odious expression that allows complacent Jews to join in the derision toward fellow Jews who dress differently. The Jews who are at the forefront and it has nothing to do with their mode of dress or their beards and earlocks or payis or payot….It’s irrelevant what you call their hats, skullcaps or long coats, they are you and me. It has once again become socially acceptable to deride and harm Jews, so what does never again mean?

“We are strong because now we have Israel” Meaningless words if you know nothing about this amazing country, a country that is now the target of those who choose to turn a blind eye to the real perpetrators of oppression and hatred. I could go on and on but you will stop reading because it hurts too much. Please, unless you teach your children about the Holocaust they will never understand about Israel or, indeed about being Jews. We are not the only persecuted people but Jews have been consistently persecuted since the time of Abraham!

When was the last time you stood up and said enough?

Rather than write on and on about the meaning of the Holocaust, since I believe that those of you who read my missives do not need reminding, you are educated and caring, but ….

Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs Yair Lapid spoke at the site of the Mathausen Concentration Camp with these words

Speaking in a ceremony at the Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid tells the story of his paternal grandfather Bela Lampel, who was murdered at the camp in April 1945. Bela was taken from his home by an SS soldier in March, 1944, in front of his wife, and Lapid’s father Tommy, then 12 years old. “Grandpa Bela, a quiet man whose family nickname was Bela the Wise, sent me here today to say on his behalf that the Jews have not surrendered,” says Lapid. “They’ve established a strong, free, and proud Jewish state, and they sent his grandson to represent them here today. The Nazis thought they were the future, and that Jews would be something you only find in a museum. Instead, the Jewish state is the future, and Mauthausen is a museum.” “Rest in peace, grandfather, you won.” 

I wanted to write about the Wannsee Conference  when the fate of Europe’s Jews was decided in the diabolical Final Solution, a gradual loss of rights that culminated in ghettos and camps; about Winston Churchill who led Britain and her Commonwealth into a punishing war because it was the right thing to do, despite major arguments with the then US President FDR, and three long years before they were joined by the United States Forces; the long list of what I wanted you to hear culminated in the most grueling report on the Shoah that I have ever heard, from Richard Dimbelby, on the liberation of Bergen-Belsen.

Today stories will be told – albeit in countries that accept Israel as the Jewish home – but what about tomorrow. Please I beg of you to tell your children and grandchildren the stories, not to scare them but to inform them of our past and how we rose like a phoenix out of the ashes and as Yair Lapid stood proudly at the site of his grandfather’s demise and announced – Bela the Wise, you won.

I came here today to remind the world that Bela Lampel was not a number. 
He was my grandfather. He loved his beautiful wife. He went to football matches with his child. He loved to have an omelet at the coffee shop next to his home. He never wronged anyone. He wasn’t an important man.
He didn’t hate anyone. He was simply… Jewish. 

So they took him in the middle of the night, and sent him from camp to camp until he arrived here. When he arrived here, the Nazis already knew that they had lost the war. The mighty machine that was the German Army had collapsed. They needed every soldier, every slice of bread, every rifle – and yet, they continued to kill Jews up until the very last moment.

Today, all over the world, survivors have built families who carry their stories forward so that they will not be forgotten. There are some who have built families of 100’s descendants and unlike their own parents and grandparents they can laugh and play with them. The ultimate vengeance is to survive and thrive. Israel was not brought about by the Shoah but it is the living proof that just as the Jewish Partisans of the Ghettos we know how to stand proud, to turn the arrows of our enemies and turn them back on themselves – this wondrous country has proven that we cannot be held down.

I know you are not used to me being angry or sad but the very idea that we, our generation, has done a pretty lousy job at ensuring that our children understand their past to be able to defend themselves from what appears to be around the corner makes me furious.

Koolulam gathered a group of survivors and their families to sing “Chai Chai Chai” Live Live Live which they all did against all odds.

Children in London were to hold a ceremony commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Shoah but Covid prevented it. Unperturbed they children recorded at home.

Hatikva – The Hope, is Israel’s National Anthem. Hope, that belief that the future will always be better; Hope, Tikva, which helped those who survived the horrors of the Shoah to lead wonderful lives here in the land of hope. The young men and women of the IDF are the future of Israel and of the Jewish people as they go forward into the world with a confidence that past generations never attained.

I wish you a Shabbat Shalom and when we say “Never Again” remember that we have to mean it, we’ve had 77 years to learn how.

With love from Jerusalem, the city that is the answer to our prayers for the last 3,000 years.