Unless you know
what it is to look
at black & white proof
at lambs led to slaughter
at herds of the lost
Holocaust Remembrance Day, which comes upon us soon, is a time to reflect on the darkest tragedy of the Jewish people in the modern age (and some would say in all of history).
A few weeks ago, I had this conversation with my 13-year-old daughter, who was reading Elie Wiesel's Night for a school assignment. I was driving her home with her in the back seat.
I said, "You know, it's not a subject I like to talk about."
Music plays a critical role in society as an integral part of social and political history, but more importantly as intrinsic to the total human experience, noted Irene Heskes, a historian and author specializing in sacred and secular Jewish music.
A couple of years ago, at the ripe old age of 96, Simon Wiesenthal died in his sleep. Wiesenthal survived nine different concentration and labor camps and faced certain death on two occasions, but somehow, he outlived his Nazi tormentors.
Today is Yom HaShoah, or Holocaust Remembrance Day, when we pay tribute to all those who died in the Holocaust. Shoah, which means "catastrophe" or "utter destruction" in Hebrew, refers to the atrocities that were committed against the Jewish people during World War II.
Jews throughout the world have been commemorating the Holocaust annually on the 27th of Nisan since 1953, when the Israeli government inaugurated this day of remembrance and linked to the heroic Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of a decade earlier.
As a teenager, I would sit on my bedroom floor listening to old records of Belgian singer-songwriter, poet, and performer Jacques Brel. I didn’t need to keep a journal, because his lyrics wove together everything I felt at the time. Brel had a fire within, and his anger, longing, passion, and truth blazed through every word he sang. His music, raw and real, transformed and fed my soul; it informed and shaped who I am today.
I recently visited Majdanek, a concentration camp in Poland, with my classmates. Afterward, I wrote this piece - part poem and part essay - about what spoke to me there.