Home > Uncategorized > Yom Hashoah: Holocaust Memorial Day

Yom Hashoah: Holocaust Memorial Day

Yom Hashoah marks the loss of six million Jews in the Holocaust. Six million. The current population of Israel is 7.8 million. At 10:00 AM sirens sounded for two minutes as everyone in the country stopped what they were doing to stand together in remembrance. Cars and busses pulled over. I assume trains stopped. I haven’t visited any of the Holocaust memorials in Israel, but today it felt like the entire country was one.

On the walk to school this morning I wanted to prepare Liam for the observance. I didn’t want him to be confused about what was happening or what was expected of him. It turned out to be a much more difficult conversation than I first imagined.

Me: Today at 10:00 you are going to hear a loud siren. It’s OK. It’s a special day and when we hear the siren everyone is going to stop what they are doing and stand still and quiet for two minutes.

Liam: What does it sound like?

Me: (Trying to make a siren sound and just sounding silly.)

Liam: OK. Why?

Me: (I try to keep it simple.) It’s to remember people who died.

Liam: (Thinks for a moment.) Like Daddy’s dad. He died and I never got to meet him.

Me: Well, that’s true, but that’s not exactly what today is about. These people died because of a war.

Liam: Soldiers?

(And now it gets more complicated. One of those moments when you decide if you want to shield your child from ugly truths for just a little longer or begin to teach them about social justice. He’s a smart kid. I go with social justice.)

Me: No, not soldiers. And that’s the really sad part. These were regular people. They were Jews. There was a bad man who wanted all the power for himself (he understands this concept) and he didn’t like the Jews. He had other bad people working for him. They killed a lot of Jews and other people who tried to help the Jews.

Liam: Who was he?

Me: His name was Hitler.

Liam: Hit who?

Me: Hit-ler.

Liam: And he wanted all the power for himself? Just like Garmadon?

Me: Yes. Do you remember what you need to do when you hear the siren?

Liam: Stand quiet and still.

When 10:00 arrived I was ready. I planned to stand on my balcony to keep the company of anyone else who happened to be on their balconies. The sound of the siren was really disturbing. It’s the same siren they use for air raids. I thought about the conversation I had with Liam and all the things that were left unsaid. Things that were too horrible to say. I thought about my sweet boy standing with his Jewish friends, whose families were likely affected by the Holocaust.

I thought about a woman I met at a teaching conference 14 years ago. We had lunch, really hit it off, and wandered into deep conversational territory. She told me she’d only recently learned she was Jewish. Her grandmother had survived the Holocaust and, when they came to the United States, warned all of her children not to tell anyone they were Jewish. The woman only learned of her ancestry after the Grandmother died. That family was terrified to tell anyone who they really were for nearly 50 years.

I thought about characters I’d read about in books: Ellen Rosen in Number the Stars, Max in The Book Thief, Bernie and his mother in Too Jewish. I thought about sweet Anne Frank too.

And I cried like a baby.

  1. Tracy
    April 19, 2012 at 12:41

    If it’s any consolation, this made me get teary eyed. I know what you mean about “explaining about the world”. It is not easy to do. I also have to admit that I chuckled when reading about “Garmadon” , J watches that show too!! Enjoy the rest of your time in Israel. It sounds like you got to experience some pretty amazing cultural things.

  2. narda korakin
    April 19, 2012 at 12:55

    Hi Tracy
    You write beautifully and I got goose bumps as I read each passage. Knowing sweet Liam i can only imagine how hard it was for you to explain the Holocaust to him. My grand daughter just returned from Poland where she participated in the March of the Living and she was deeply effected by what she saw and experienced especially because she comes from a family that lost so many relatives, uncles, aunts, cousins and one child who was taken to a convent and whom we have no idea where he is today.
    see you next week and once again i commend you and Fara on this great site.
    warm regards and deepest respect for you both.

  3. turkischland
    April 19, 2012 at 13:16

    Reblogged this on turkischland and commented:
    I TURKISCHMAN HAVE EVERY TIME I LOVE JEWISCH PEOPELS AND MY HEART IS ARE CRY FOR PEOPELS IN THE 2 . WORLDWAR HAVE HOLOUCOUST DIED. I love jewisch and we are all turkisch peopels are anti- anti semitics we are children adam and eva our you believe torah of hollybible of holly koran for me are adam and eva- abraham and jesuz and mozes and mohammed- Im sufizm way are believ one god- ot the name GOD- YEHVA- ELAH- OF ALLAH GOODLOOK AMERICA- CANADA- AND AUSTRALIAN I LOVE YOU

  4. Susan
    April 19, 2012 at 13:19

    Well, you made me cry too Tracy. Someday, I have a story to tell you — a rather bizarre one, but you might find it interesting. Just ask me about Suritha, sometime when we’re visiting and we have a few quiet minutes (yeah, like that’s going to happen!).

    • April 19, 2012 at 20:58

      I like a good story. Let’s find some time when I’m home for the wedding.

  5. April 19, 2012 at 13:30

    very nice post. Have you read the Hare with Amber Eyes?

    • April 19, 2012 at 20:57

      I haven’t, but the description is interesting. I’ll put it on my book list.

  6. April 19, 2012 at 14:16

    I am emailing this to my husband’s parents – they will really appreciate it. They are Jewish – actually just got back from visiting Israel – and I still get the occasional “get with it” feeling when I forget just what their parents and relatives went through. It’s the kind of thing that is so deeply seeded inside them, well, I guess I don’t have anything to compare it to. That’s probably a sign of how awful it is, right? Anyway, thank you for posting your conversation and how it felt to hear that siren. Truly disturbing I imagine. I think your reaction (crying like a baby) is entirely appropriate. Thanks again!

  7. Erica Bradford
    April 19, 2012 at 15:14

    And now I cry too…

  8. helenslayton
    April 19, 2012 at 22:48

    Tracy, wow, so well written. I’m also teary. Thank you.

  9. Darcie
    April 20, 2012 at 01:59

    You made me cry too. And think of our trip to Buchenwald, where both George & I cried, pretty much for the rest of that day.

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