International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust Observances
Survivors and leaders make their voices heard on the International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust TO BE SURE THAT ONE should never forget what happened in Europe in the genocide of the 1930s and 1940s.
Many Jewish groups, particularly in Israel, also observe Yom HaShoah, a day of mourning for Holocaust victims on 27th day of the Hebrew month of Nisan, which falls in April or May of the calendar in common use.
Children were especially vulnerable in the era of the Holocaust. The Nazis advocated killing children of “unwanted” or “dangerous” groups in accordance with their ideological views, either as part of the “racial struggle” or as a measure of preventative security. The Germans and their collaborators murdered children both for these ideological reasons and in retaliation for real or alleged partisan attacks.
The Germans and their collaborators murdered as many as 1.5 million children, including over a million Jewish children and tens of thousands of Romani (Gypsy) children, German children with physical and mental disabilities living in institutions, Polish children, and children residing in the occupied Soviet Union. The chances for survival for Jewish and some non-Jewish adolescents (13-18 years old) were greater, as they could be used for forced labor.
In spite of their acute vulnerability, many children discovered ways to survive. Children smuggled food and medicines into the ghettos, after smuggling personal possessions to trade for them out of the ghettos. Children in youth movements later participated in underground resistance activities. Many children escaped with parents or other relatives — and sometimes on their own — to family camps run by Jewish partisans
Of the millions of children who suffered persecution at the hands of the Nazis and their Axis partners, only a small number wrote diaries and journals that have survived. TWO EXAMPLES ARE THE DIARY OF MIRIAM WATTENBERG and THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK
The diary of Miriam Wattenberg
The diary of Miriam Wattenberg (“Mary Berg”) was one of the first children’s journals. It revealed the horrors of the Holocaust to a wider public.
Wattenberg was born in Lódz on October 10, 1924. She began a wartime diary in October 1939, shortly after Poland surrendered to German forces. The Wattenberg family fled to Warsaw, where in November 1940, Miriam, with her parents and younger sister, had to live in the Warsaw ghetto. The Wattenbergs held a privileged position within this confined community because Miriam’s mother was a U.S. citizen.
Shortly before the first large deportation of Warsaw Jews to Treblinka in the summer of 1942, German officials detained Miriam, her family, and other Jews bearing foreign passports in the infamous Pawiak Prison. German authorities eventually transferred the family to the Vittel internment camp in France, and allowed them to emigrate to the United States in 1944. Published under the penname “Mary Berg” in February 1945, Miriam Wattenberg’s diary was one of the very few eyewitness accounts of the Warsaw ghetto available to readers in the English-speaking world before the end of World War II.
The diary of Anne Frank
Born Annelies Frank in Frankfurt-am-Main, Germany, on June 12, 1929, she was the second daughter of businessman Otto Frank and his wife Edith. When the Nazis seized power in January 1933, the Franks fled to Amsterdam in order to evade the anti-Jewish measures of the new regime. Anne had received an autograph book for her twelfth birthday and began to use the volume as her diary, keeping a detailed account of events that took place in the “secret annex.” Acting on an anonymous tip, the German Security Police discovered the Franks’ hiding place on August 4, 1944, and deported the inhabitants of the annex via Westerbork to Auschwitz.
In late October or early November 1944, Anne and her sister Margot arrived with a transport from Auschwitz to Bergen-Belsen, where both succumbed to typhus in late February or early March 1945. Following the war, Anne’s father, Otto Frank, the sole survivor of the group, returned to Amsterdam in the summer of 1945, where former employee Miep Gies gave him Anne’s diary and some further papers which she had found in the annex after the arrests. The diary first appeared in the Netherlands in 1947. Published in English in 1952 as The Diary of a Young Girl, the wartime journal of Anne Frank has become one of the world’s most widely read books, transforming its author into a symbol of the hundreds of thousands of Jewish children murdered in the Holocaust.
Between 1938 and 1940, the Kindertransport (Children’s Transport) was the informal name of a rescue effort which brought thousands of refugee Jewish children (without their parents) to safety in Great Britain from Nazi Germany and German-occupied territories. Some non-Jews hid Jewish children and sometimes, as in the case of Anne Frank, hid other family members as well. In France, almost the entire Protestant population of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon, as well as many Catholic priests, nuns, and lay Catholics, hid Jewish children in the town from 1942 to 1944. In Italy and Belgium, many children survived in hiding. A number of Jewish children were sent to Denmark to be raised by non-Jews. In Belgium, some Jewish families in Brussels sent their children to live with non-Jewish rural farm families.
After the surrender of Nazi Germany, ending World War II, refugees and displaced persons searched throughout Europe for missing children. Thousands of orphaned children were in displaced persons camps. Many surviving Jewish children fled Eastern Europe as part of the mass exodus (Brihah) to the western zones of occupied Germany, en route to the Yishuv (the Jewish settlement in Palestine). Through Youth Aliyah (Youth Immigration), thousands migrated to the Yishuv, and then to the state of Israel after its establishment in 1948.
Following the UN resolution draft to designate January 27 as the International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust Observances we assembled here today to commemorate the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust. And call to help to prevent genocide. And reject denials that the Holocaust occurred
“כל אדם מכל רקע ניחן על ידי יוצרו בזכות לשאוף לחיים ואושר
Every human being has the God given right to life – a life of good purpose and happiness.
Chairman NHC Nairobi Hebrew Congregation
The Jewish Community in Kenya