The Rambam Mesivta held an impactful assembly to commemorate Holocaust Remembrance Day. It began with a viewing of the infamous “Auschwitz Album,” along with commentary from Rambam’s principal, Rabbi Yotav Eliach. The Auschwitz Album depicts the process of camp arrivals and the separation of Jews to the left and to the right by Nazi soldiers and “doctors.” Any images of gruesome or barbaric scenes were omitted to avoid traumatizing the young audience.
Rabbi Friedman quoted Rav Soloveitchik as saying, “Holocaust Remembrance Day is really an extension of Tish’ah B’Av.” However, Rabbi Friedman explained that since Tish’ah B’Av falls out in the summer, “there are certain educational themes consistent with the idea of the mitzvah of Zachor that can be gleaned earlier, as long as we recognize that the Holocaust and all Jewish tragedies are an outgrowth of Tish’ah B’Av and of our being in Galus.”
Being a child of Holocaust survivors, he mentioned that he relates many daily mundane things to the Holocaust. “When I walk to shul on Shabbos and I pass a sewer, I oftentimes peer down into it and think of the fact that so many Jews tried to escape the Nazis by hiding in sewers filled with refuse, filth, and rats.
When I once took a walk near my house and was chased by an aggressive barking dog, I thought of those on the death march forced to walk in freezing cold weather, and if they collapsed they would be mauled by a vicious dog.”
We have to remember the suffering of the previous generation, but most importantly remember the commitment that so many had to Torah u’mitzvos. Referring to his father-in-law, Mr. Arthur Heiman z”l, who was courageous to blow the shofar on Rosh HaShanah in Westerbork concentration camp, whose sound attracted the Nazi commandant to come into the barrack, Rabbi Friedman said, “So many Jews sacrificed and were committed to Torah. We can all be inspired by this and be even more meticulous about halachah, taking everything we do to the next level.”
Rabbi Friedman’s remarks were echoed by special guest speaker Mr. Ben Landa, himself a son of Holocaust survivors. Mr. Landa mentioned that he still finds it very difficult to walk down the steps of his house to his basement, because it reminds him of the steps that lead to the gas chambers. He, too, spoke passionately about the importance of Zachor and being proud Jews. Rabbi Eliach closed the assembly with a very moving clip of a Keil Malei Rachamim recited in memory of the k’doshei haShoah. Talmidim returned to shiur in a pensive and serious mood, appreciating how fortunate they were to live and practice Torah without being persecuted.