Wednesday, April 18, 2012

YOM HASHOAH: My personal testimony

My parents were not born in Europe. Neither were my grandparents. In our family, from my mother side (Syria) and from my father side (Morocco) no one was sent to a concentration camp. My parents, my sisters and me, we were all born in the peaceful Argentina.

Every year in Yom haShoah, in the Jewish day school I attended in Buenos Aires (Bet-Sefer Talpiot) we watched with my classmates the horrific black and white documentaries which showed the trains of death, the corpses, the crematoriums, the gas chambers. I cried, we all cried. For our brothers and sisters. For the elders and infants, brutally murdered by the Nazis, yemach shemam.....

But one time, when I was in High School, we had a different kind a Yom haShoah. Our principal, Mr. Eliezer Shlomowitz, invited a Holocaust survivor to speak to us, which at that time was not the standard way of commemorating Yom haShoa.

After telling us his personal shocking story, and how he survived Auschwitz, he told us:

"I know that you have not seen the Shoah for yourselves. I know that for you the Shoah is History.  Modern Jewish history. Well documented and all, but at the end of the day, it is just history. But today, you have heard my story, and you have seen me. Now you bear on your young shoulders a tremendous new responsibility. Now you have become witnesses of the Shoah. How so? Because MY EYES saw the horrors of the Shoah. MY EYES did not see the Shoah in the aseptic black and white documentaries, where you can't see the red of blood. MY EYES saw it all. They saw the most intense and hideous colors. Now, I want you to look at MY EYES. So one day you will be able to tell your children: 'I haven't seen the Shoah myself. But MY EYES have seen THE EYES that SAW the Shoah. Now, my son, look at my eyes and bear witness yourself

I looked at his eyes. Old, gray and fatigued eyes.  And that was when the Shoah became part of my personal memory. That is when I became a Shoah witness