By Jordan Darling, Editor-in-Chief
She was smaller than me, her blue eyes were set in a wrinkled face and her smile was soft. She tapped my Star of David and nodded her head, “You must be Ashkenazi.” It was a simple connection, one that stemmed from a shared faith and a shared culture.
Her name was Sarah B. Schweitz. I met her while covering a Yom HaShoah service for my journalism class at Cypress College in 2017.
Schweitz was born in 1940 in Trikala, Greece. Her home was occupied by the German’s, her father was drafted into the army where he was captured and sent to a concentration camp before being reunited with his family in 1944.
The joy of being reunited was short lived. The Germans went into the Jewish Quarter and captured everyone except a few who had escaped including Schweitz and her family who escape with the help of a righteous gentile and hid in the mountains until till the end of the war. Sarah was four, she lost over 50 members of her family in a genocide by the time she was old enough to go to school.
In January, the International community observed a day of Holocaust remembrance but on April 20 Israel and the Jewish community observed Yom HaShoah, the international day of Holocaust Remembrance, the day that the world is meant to reflect back on the human tragedy that took six million lives because of the cruelty of religious and ethnic persecution.
In 1951, the Israeli parliament came together to create Yom HaShoah and the holiday was enacted into law in 1953.
Jewish communities worldwide use this day as a way to remember those that were lost and as a way to educate others. In the United States, we cover the Holocaust as a section of World War Two. In my experience in the classroom, it is covered as a side note to a larger story. A story that is glossed over to make it more digestible for students.
Over the summer I was given the opportunity to visit the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem, Yad Vashem. This was one of the first times in my adult life that I was face to face with the facts not shared in school. they don’t share in school.
An uncomfortably angular building with a design that leads you through each step of the Holocaust. I relived moments with survivors and victims as I watched the reels of testimonials, read the documents, and saw the artifacts
I walked into the Hall of Names, a building with one room covered in mirrors lit with a memorial candle.
A recording plays on loop listing the names and home country of the 1.5 million children lost in the Holocaust.
The hall was donated by Abe and Edita Spiegel who lost their 2-year-old two-year-old son at Auschwitz.
These stories, these moments in time preserved through oral history and in artifacts gathered by people around the world are a reminder of why Yom HaShoah is so important.
This day is one to remember those that came before us and the ones who suffered through intolerance.
It is the job of each and every one of us to remember their stories and remember their names. Remember them, remember why they are gone, and remember why we should all strive to be more.