Thursday, March 23, 2006

Yad Vashem

'"Dear finder of these notes,
I have one request of you, which is, in fact, the practical objective for my writing... that my days of Hell, that my hopeless tomorrow will find a purpose in the future. I am transmitting only a part of what happened in the Birkenau-Auschwitz Hell. You will realize what reality looked like... From all this you will have a picture of how our people perished."

Zalman Gradowski, a member of the Sonderkommando, wrote these words in notes that he buried at the crematoria. Gradowski was deported to Auschwitz with his family on December 8, 1942 and wrote his notes om the hope that they would be found and published. He was killed in the Sonderkommando Revolt, October 1944.'

This is one of the two things that truly made me teary-eyed today at Yad Vashem, the
Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem. I actually cried before I even knew what the Sonderkommando was. I had assumed that it was some sort of Partisan uprising group. I felt even worse when I came home and wikipediaed it. I went to the new museum today, which was just recently built, which focused on the people in the holocaust: Not just the victims, but also the righteous gentiles, and - what I found surprising - the Nazis. Their paragraph biography began with their job prior to their ascent in the Nazi party as a single clause. We had "Pharmacist" or "Banker", regular jobs, and ended with "hanged for coordinating the murders of 500,000." The things people do for power...

I am quite speechless right now, I'm sorry. The other thing that made me really teary-eyed, by the way, was toward the end where there were two banners from the end of the war, one in Hebrew with the biblical verse "Remember what Amalek did to you!" and below a banner in Yiddish that said something to the effect of "Remember the holy souls of those who were killed, each and every one of the 6 Million Jews", and of course the Munkatcher children singing Hatikva a few years before the Holocaust which was set against the section regarding the establishment of the State of Israel three years after the Holocaust. Other parts I was just in too much shock. I have grown up seeing these images as it is vital that we not only perpetuate the memory of those who perished in the Holocaust, but also the atrocities that were committed ("Remember what Amalek did to you!"). Still, when I saw video of naked emaciated bodies being piled onto carts, I had to get out of the section.

I really want to learn more about my family in Warsaw. My great-grandfather Max Rutta was one of 22 children in Warsaw, Poland. Yes, that is a huge family tree, but most of the branches were cut down by the Nazis. Hundreds and hundreds of my cousins were murdered.
I have seen some accounts in the Yad Vashem databases online last year of my family (Last Family Name: Rutta, Location: Warsaw) but we don't know how they perished, just that they were never heard from again after the War. I highly recommend searching for your relatives on this database. "Remember, don't forget!"

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