Today is Yom HaShoah in Israel, the day we remember the 6 million Jews that were slaughtered by the Nazi regime. I wanted to explain most of Israel’s routine during this day, write a little bit about my family history regarding the Shoah, share my experiences when I was traveling with my classmates in Poland, and try to make a lesson out of it. Here’s my blog for Yom Hashoah.
What Happens in Israel During Yom Hashoah?
In the evening of Yom Hashoah and the following day, Israeli civilians gather around in memorials that are held all over the country. Israelis lit candles, talk about the Holocaust, share the stories of their family encounter with the Holocaust and survivors talk about their experiences during World War II. The official government ceremony is held in the Yad Vashem museum in Israel where the Prime Minister, the President, and several other important figures. The schools are doing a memorial of their own and a siren is held at 10:00 Oclock in the morning, and the entire country stands up for the 6 million victims.
The entertainment channels stop they’re broadcasting and the only things on television are Holocaust movies and documentaries of Holocaust survivors. Some of the documentaries include trails of well known Nazi and SS officials like Adolf Eichmann. The shows are quite interesting, and you could learn a lot about the German occupation from it. You could also learn about the Righteous Among The Nations; people that hosted Jews despite the persecution of the government and the local population.
My Family Connection to The Holocaust
My grandfather was born in Brno, to a religious Jewish family. During 1938, right after the German occupation of Czechoslovakia, my grandfather got into a fight with a Nazi officer causing his death. My grandfather had no choice but to take advantage of the confusion caused by the occupation and flee to Palestine (Israel). He came to Israel on an illegal immigrant ship that came from Greece and was able to find refuge. Unfortunately for him, his family wasn’t that lucky.
My grandfather had 6 siblings; after the war, he had only two sisters and a mother. The rest were killed in concentration or death camps.
Trip to Poland
There are a lot of Israeli high school trips to Poland, mostly in 11th or 12th grade. The students are taken for about a week and travel through a lot of concentration and death camps, memorials and ghetto remains all over Poland. I was on one of those trips, and I visited a lot of Holocaust-related places.
We went to Treblinka, Aushwitch, Warsaw Ghetto, Memorials of death pits, mass graves and even piles of ashes. We learned that the Nazis were very efficient and used everything that they could use. In one of those death camps, we saw a hut filled with old shoes, that were taken off the victim and were sent to Germany. In Majdanek, they even used the ashes in order to benefit their crops.
Those trips were amazing and well informative, but they had their disadvantage. During our trip to Poland, we have seen some wonderful views and bonded with one another in a very special way. Moreover, that was a great learning experience about WWII. Nevertheless, it brought up a lot of emotional tolls, and my friends and I even bought some alcohol to take the edge off in the evening just to get out of the mindset of grief and sadness.
I learn that this whole idea of educating Israeli students about the Holocaust was to make us realize that we Jews will never be safe, unless they have their place to live. It’s weird to say, but one of the most terrific results of the Holocaust was the state of Israel.
Could This Be Relevant to Our Days?
Definitely. At the moment, the world is fighting its own thing; a virus. Hosting Israeli travelers as hard as most of the hosts don’t want to bring the virus into their doorstep. Nevertheless, the host that I have met until the pandemic was amazing and reminded me that a lot of people don’t hate Israelis or Jews. Some people love us for who we are, and we love them for providing us a warm home, far away from our real home.