The Holocaust remembrance day observed in Israel falls soon after Easter, on the twenty-seventh day of the Jewish month of Nisan. Following the Jewish lunar calendar, it marks the uprising in the Warsaw ghetto on Passover eve 1943 (19 April). A date falling soon after Passover was chosen for the commemoration. The poem ‘Treblinka 1944’ by T W Perkins is quoted from ‘Beyond Lament’ edited by Marguerite M Striar.
Hope and faith are gone now.
Holidays pass, and no-one worships.
Who is there foolish enough to pray
‘To next year in Jerusalem’?
Who is there who still believes
they will live to see next year?
Only the strongest are still alive
even the strongest are weak now.
Too weak for hope,
too weak for prayer,
too weak for rituals;
surviving is itself a ritual:
the only one we know.
When the moon is red
the night I die
who will be left to see it?
My mother prayed over my sisters
my father over my mother.
I said Kaddish for my father.
Who will care to pray for me?
Now, as we march to our death
the ritual returns:
We say our final prayer
as we have done for ages.
Above the roaring fires
can be heard our chant:
‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God,
the Lord is one.’
T W Perkins
Mourners and visitors enter the Children’s Memorial at Yad Vashem by a concrete slope perhaps 15 metres long. You enter a high, dark space, largely underground. The darkness hides your fellow guests; you may hold the railing tightly.
On every side, above and below, are invisible sheets of glass. Reflected in the glass, repeated to infinity in every direction, are five candle flames. The space is silent, except for a man’s and a woman’s voice, calling names. If we knew all the names there would be one and a half million of them, the children killed in the Holocaust.
Guide and inspire us so to live on this earth
that when the day comes for us to enter the place of darkness
we may find it to be none other than your infinite sea of light,
where all who have died are known by name
and the first of those names is your own.In Jesus’ name we ask.