Reflections on Holocaust Remembrance Day

by Victoria Clarice Anderson

Jerusalem is one big traffic jam today and an emotional clog.

Dozens of world leaders have gathered to honor the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz ahead of the International Holocaust Memorial Day next week.

My father survived Auschwitz and didn’t talk much about what really happened there.

In one of my first conversations with him after my coming out, I sat with him in the kitchen and suddenly realized that as he looks at me, his gay son, his context for my identity is brutal. What did he go through as a 14-year-old boy in that horror where prisoners had triangles in yellow, pink and other colors? What did he see, experience, avoid, survive and never talk about? We didn’t talk about it either. But we both knew we knew.

Had he been alive today, he would have been there at Yad Vashem with the other distinguished survivors and world leaders. His brother, my uncle Rabbi Lau, mentioned him by name, grateful as always for his agency in making sure he stayed alive. My father would have sat there with Pence and Putin and other leaders, so many of them responsible for so much world suffering, including for my LGBT family, Jewish or not.

Just yesterday, the Russian delegation signed an agreement with the Israel government affirming that no LGBT couples may adopt babies from Russia. Yet another, and a relatively minor, offense of this hateful, homophobic, Putin regime, targeting those like me who were simply born different.

So yes, to honoring and remembering the horrors of the Holocaust and standing up against antisemitism.

Now more than ever – never again. I am honored to represent my father and tell his story where I go so that less hate in the world will build more love.

But it wasn’t just Jews who were targeted and killed and liberated and survived. We are obligated to remember all who were suspect, all who were other, all who were blamed and banished. We must remember and honor all, dignify and remember all who suffered the terrible indignity and horror, especially those who were so viciously and purposely ignored and forgotten. The lessons learned are never again – for anyone. Not just for Jews.

This event, while important and moving, and while several of the leaders spoke [of] all forms of hatred and racism worldwide and called [for] vigilant resistance, it seems like a cynical, political side show with no reference to the Palestinian occupation and the Gaza Ghetto. Not a word about the millions of refugees, immigrants, asylum seekers, victims of wars and global famines, launched and created by some of the gathered leaders – the millions who are not finding homes in countries who have yet again shut their doors. Not a word about the genocides and persecution perpetrated right now by some of these leaders all over the world. Here in Jerusalem – can we aim higher? Can we walk the nobler talk of our prophetic past?

What will we remember? Who will we recall? What will be repressed and ignored until we forget why we survived in the first place and what lessons will we pass on to future generations? It will be a disgrace if all that we sanctify is the Jewish story and not the human one…if what we weep for is our suffering and not instantly learn from our trauma how to be healers and builders of a better world – for all.

I don’t know what my father would have said today.

But I say, “Thank you for surviving so that we can be here strong, attentive, hopeful and help heal the world.”

 

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