Why We Should Remember the Holocaust Today

Today always amazes me. At ten o’clock on this holiday each April, sirens ring loud in Israel. People stop—wherever they are, whatever they are doing—and stand at attention for 120 seconds of silence.

Imagine that for a moment. Two minutes. Silence. Everywhere.

Memorial

(Photo: Janusz Korczak Memorial at Yad Vashem honors one who sheltered Jewish children during the holocaust)

Then the sirens rang again, and life resumed—full-speed. This annual pause allows the nation to remember the six million Jews who were murdered simply because they were Jews.

Yom Hashoah, known as Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day, marks the Jewish holiday that remembers those who perished in the Holocaust.

Many times I have visited Jerusalem’s Holocaust Museum, Yad Vashem.

It changes you.

The Yad Vashem Museum in Jerusalem

Zigzagging throughout the museum, a path led me before disturbing scenes suspended on pale walls.

  • Life-sized murals of living skeletons stared at me.
  • In photo after photo, corpses lay piled after mass-executions.
  • Hundreds of discarded shoes spread out under a glass floor.
Visitors to Yad Vashem are moved by what they see.

(Photo by Israel Defense Forces. US Gen. Martin Dempsey Visits Yad VaShem. CC-BY-SA-2.0)

In another area, a recording reads aloud the names of children and their ages at death. Chilling—and profoundly sad.

In Yad Vashem’s Hall of Remembrance, on every Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day, the names of various Holocaust victims are read aloud. Anyone can attend this profound ceremony, just one of the events of this significant day.

Whoever listens to a witness becomes a witness”—excerpt from a speech given by Elie Wiesel at Yad Vashem

Why We Should Remember the Holocaust Today

(Photo: Hall of Names in Jerusalem’s Holocaust Museum, by David Shankbone, CC-BY-SA-3.0)

The Hebrew phrase Yad Vashem means, “a hand and a name,” an idiom from Isaiah 56:5 that refers to a memorial.

A place of remembrance. How could anyone forget?

Every time I go to the museum, I visit the “Row of Righteous Gentiles.” A row of trees planted in dedication to individuals like Corrie Ten Boom, Oskar Schindler, and many others, honors those Gentiles who risked their lives by sheltering and helping the Jews during a time when few did.

Row of Righteous Gentiles at Yad Vashem

(Photo: “Row of Righteous Gentiles” at Yad Vashem)

Amazingly, of the 300 million people who lived under Nazi domination, 90% were Christian—and 60% described themselves as devout. And the number of those who helped the Jews?

Less than one percent.

Extraordinary Ordinary People

Corrie Ten Boom and her family were common people. They were watchmakers, ordinary citizens, who became extraordinary simply by their willingness to be available to God.

Yad Vashem has a Web page with video testimonies from survivors. I chose to post the story of Haim Roet, one of those rescued by the “Righteous Among the Nations.” Haim was born in Holland, the country of Corrie Ten Boom. In two minutes—a little over 120 seconds—this video tells his story.

What Would You Have Done?

It’s hard to tell whether or not God will call us to put our lives on the line in the midst of another holocaust. But we needn’t wait until then. The Lord requires that we die to self—daily (see Luke 9:23).

But we have our reasons for our unavailability, don’t we?

  • Abraham said, “I’m too old.” (Genesis 17:17)
  • Moses said, “I’m not a good speaker.” (Exodus 4:10)
  • Gideon said, “I’m not prominent enough.” (Judges 6:15)
  • Jeremiah said, “I’m too young.” (Jeremiah 1:6)
  • Peter said, “I am a sinful man.” (Luke 5:8)

But God used them all—in spite of themselves. Why? They had willingness.

God using us in a powerful way has little to do with our education, abilities, or giftedness. (Tweet that.)

It’s our willingness that makes the difference.

Tell me what you think: Would you have been willing to help if you had been there? To leave a comment, just click here.

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