Yom HaShoah – Holocaust Memorial Day

A great aspect of this job is the unexpected encounters with beauty and wisdom. So it was tonight at Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Memorial Day, organized by the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre at the Jewish Community Centre.

The keynote address by Buchenwald survivor Robbie Waisman was a mesmerizing story of personal witness, linked to a reflection on contemporary holocausts, like Darfur, and the resurgence of anti-Semitism in many parts of the world. Ultimately, it was a challenge to remember, but not to despair.

Waisman, born in Skarszykso, Poland, was the youngest of six children. Only he and his sister survived. He was interned with his father and brother to work in a munitions factory, where he witnessed his brother’s death. A sister-in-law and nephew died at Treblinka. Ultimately he was transferred to Buchenwald, where he was liberated by the US Army on April 11, 1945. He was only 14. It was many years before he learned the fate of his mother, father and brothers.

“Forgetting the Holocaust is every survivor’s greatest fear,” he said, “and not an option.” He ended with this quote from Elie Wiesel: “Remember, because there is, there must be, hope in remembering.”