This message is for the children of survivors and their family.
This spring, Jews around the world looked forward to celebrating the 73rd anniversary of the May 14, 1948, establishment of the state of Israel, followed by the joyous festival of Shavuoton May 16-18. Instead, we find ourselves horrified by the antisemitic violence that is erupting in our Holy Land—and around the world. For Holocaust survivors, our current feelings of fear, rage, and helplessness bring up memories of another time in history when Jews were under attack.
As I watch the news in shock and disbelief, my heart breaks for all victims of mindless hatred. My heart also breaks as it becomes clear that much of the world has either forgotten, revised, or never learned, that six million Jews perished as a result of the hatred that gave rise to Hitler’s “Final Solution.” That doesn’t even include the five million others that died under his regime because they were different from him.
As we few remaining survivors reach the end of our days, we see all too clearly that our uniquely painful and heroic history (and the important lessons learned from it) is in grave danger of being extinguished. Who will tell our truth after we are gone? It is up to you, the second, third, and fourth generations, who have heard family members speak about survival. You are the last link to the greatest evil of modern history. Today, with the fires raging in Israel as a tragic reminder, our hope is that your generation will accept the loving responsibility of carrying on the legacy of our ancestors.
Children of all ages have played an important part in the creation and continuation of ZACHOR Foundation and keeping the memory and lessons learned from the Holocaust alive. In 1995, my grandson requested that I speak to his 6th grade class. It was then I broke my silence about my past. If I hadn’t made my presentation, they might never have learned the truth. Each student that day shook my hand and thanked me—and each became a new link in our history’s chain. I knew at that moment that I would continue to speak about the Holocaust whenever and wherever I was invited to do so.
And then came the pin. I was given a tiny lapel pin from a Holocaust survivor group with the Hebrew letters of the word ZACHOR…Remember. I was so touched by this memento that I wore it everywhere, sparking conversations with everyone – adults, children, and fellow survivors. Not only were they intrigued by the meaning of the pin, but they wanted one too, as a keepsake to remember. I understood it had the power to ensure the lessons of the Holocaust would continue to be learned after we survivors are gone. It was then in 2009, that the ZACHOR Holocaust Remembrance Foundation was born and we now produce and distribute these pins to anyone who hears a survivor speak. This small and mighty pin symbolizes much more than just Hebrew letters. It symbolizes a responsibility. A responsibility to work against hate. A promise to our ancestors to continue telling our truth.
Now, at the age of 92, as my heart breaks for Israel and Jews all over the world who are experiencing antisemitism, I am even more convinced that the only way to counter the violence that hatred creates is to provide education. And the key to that education is learning the lessons that our history teaches. During whatever years that will be granted to me, I will continue to provide this education along with the ZACHOR pins that are tangible evidence of the six million souls of our dearly departed that still call out to us to remember, never forget. To date, we have distributed nearly one million ZACHOR pins. It is my fervent hope that while I am still alive, another five million will be worn. If this happens, I will feel that I truly have lived a life that matters.
But I need your help to carry on this legacy.
Today, I am asking you, the loving descendants of Holocaust victims and survivors, to please take on my commitment as your own. Please wear the pin to honor them, and to show the world that the Jewish people are still here. I hope you will distribute the pins as part of a Holocaust education event or program so that everyone who wears a pin will also be able to explain what ZACHOR means, and why the world, now more than ever, still needs to learn the lessons of the Holocaust. Please help me make sure that the six million who perished will be remembered by six million who will keep their memories alive.
Thank you. Be safe and be well.
To learn more about the history of the pin, please visit: https://www.zachorfoundation.org/zachor-foundation/