The sight of neo-Nazis parading through Lithuania’s capital city in an unsanctioned march sent chills down the spines of many people both inside and outside this small Eastern European country – and rightfully so. Public expression of hatred in a land with a horrific Holocaust history is cause for alarm.
I began my journey to Judaism nervously. Unlike the Charedim (ultra-Orthodox) who are anxious before the word of God, I was anxious in the uncertainty of the future.
In North America, Holocaust remembrance services and programs often include special musical selections in memory of people lost during the war and in honor of those who fought against the Nazis. Such music is profound and varied, and often was used as a vehicle of resistance. For example, “Zogt Nit Keynmol” (“Never Say That You Have Reached the Final Road”) was written in April 1943 in reaction to news of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. Composed in Vilna by underground fighter Hirsh Glick and set to a Soviet cinema tune by Dmitri and Daniel Pokrass, the song spread like wildfire throughout Eastern Europe, becoming the official hymn of the partisan brigades.
Yom Hashoah arrives this year on the eve of two historic anniversaries: the 80th anniversary of the coming into effect of the Nuremberg Race Laws, which served as prologue and precursor to the Holocaust, and the 70th anniversary of the Nuremberg Trials, which served as the foundation for the development of contemporary international human rights and humanitarian law. We must ask ourselves two questions: What have we learned? What must we do?
A less well-known part of the Holocaust is that the Nazis also rounded up gays and lesbians, forcing them to wear pink triangles on their clothes so they could be easily recognized and further humiliated inside the concentration camps.