Tonight, the 28th of the month of Nisan we commemorate the memory of the rigtheous and innocent souls that were snuffed out during Holocaust, as well as commemorate the heroes, the non-Jews that rescued us and our Jewish bretheren who rose up to fight injustice.
I want to tell a story about one family in the Holocaust, my family. My great-grandfather Max (Menachem ben Yaakov, alav hashalom), my father's father's father, was one of 22 children born to Yaakov and Tova Brandshaft Rutta in Warsaw, Poland. You read that correctly, twenty-two children! Yaakov and Tova owned a very successful bakery. Well, more accurately, Tova, the daughter of a famous rabbi in Warsaw (and from a long line of important rabbis) ran it along with the kids while Yaakov was at kollel (he was a professional learner). The great thing about this was that there was pure profit as they never had to hire employees. It was entirely a family business, one which continued through the generations and most of the people who are my generation's grandparents owned a family bakery (my zayde, alav hashalom, owned two, one for year round and one for Pesach). Anyway, I learned last week that there were 70 people that sat at Yaakov's seder table. I laughed at the irony. Yaakov, the patriarch of all Jews and who had only 12 sons went down to Egypt with 70 descendants, and the patriarch of my huge family had the same amount of people at his seder table discussing this very account. That must have been awkward.
Anyway, my branch of the family escaped from the balagan that was going on in poland and imigrated to America in 1924, when my Zayde z"l was 12 years old, around the same time that the progenetor of the branch of the family I met last week came to America. Most of the rest of the family was not so lucky. I unfortunately do not know so much about what happened. The accounts I found at Yad Vashem say that they were not heard from after the war and were last known in the Warsaw Ghetto. I don't want to speculate, but perhaps they were sent to the Camps or perhaps they were part of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. I wish I knew more. I do know a fantastic story that I heard a few days ago of one of my relatives seeing a Nazi holding Jews at gunpoint near a window. My relative ran at him at full speed taking the Nazi and himself out the window to their deaths. This sounds a lot like the selfless act of Eliezer HaMacabee during the Hanukkah Story who placed his spear under the Greek-Assyrian general's elephant, taking out himself, the elephant, and the general in the process. I don't know if this is true, and I also heard it from another relative that he jumped from the window onto a Nazi about to fire on people.
Here are links to some of the Testimony Pages from Yad Vashem:
Wolf Rutta, Yitzhak Rutta, Esther Rutta, Nathan & Feiga Rutta, and from my zayde's mother's side, the Mardykses (also a very large family): Golda Mardyks, Enrique Mardyks, Fryda Mardyks, and so forth (I'm not totally sure which ones are related to me, actually from the Mardyks side, and there is a possibility I am also related to the Ruttas of Lodz)
We are reminded: Remember! Never forget! This was actually not the first context that I heard this phrase today. In Chumash today we studied about Amakek and what the ironic thing we must do to them, ie: destroy them. Many have used this against us, but realize that this today is a concept. Amalek is a symbol of injustice, a sword that knows no mercy, a people that know no greater power except killing. They slaughtered the innocent, the weak, the stragglers. Amalek are the Nazis. They don't recognize humanity or the sacredness of life.
I watched the movie Paper Clips tonight along with around 100 people at Pardes tonight, after spending a couple of hours learning at nightseder dedicated to the memory of the Six Million. This movie was very powerful, and was fascinating how a small town of 1,600 in rural Tenessee, with not a single Jew, could take it upon themselves to learn about the Holocaust, and collecting paperclips to see what a number like 6,000,000 could mean. It was a very powerful and well-done documentary and I applaud the students of Whitwell Middle School for learing about this and for building a memorial. I'm not talking about the cattlecar filled with 11 million paperclips (they at last count collected over 29 million), I'm talking about the yad vashem, the living memorial that they created within themselves by learning about this. Here we have young teenagers who had probably never even seen a Jew studying about diversity and intolerance with eyes and ears that have never been exposed to such horror. I highly recommend this movie (and am giving it a 10 on IMDB).
Tomorrow morning at 10 AM the sirens will blare throughout the country and Israel will stand still. People will get out of their cars and stop whatever they are doing to commemorate two minutes of silence. I will be on my way to the Interior Ministry to get a stamp on my passport so I don't get kicked out of the country and will not be in class for that moment of silence, instead will probably be on the streets of Jersualem standing at attention with every pedestrian and motorist doing the same. If you want to see more about how it is observed in Israel, please check out this wikipedia entry. Does this mean that Misrad HaPanim, a government agency, will be closed? I have an appointment, but I don't know if that means anything.
Remember and Never Forget. We must never forget, lest history repeat itself, and we must speak out against what is happening in Darfur. We cannot allow the Holocaust to happen again!
Remember, don't forget! Also, please learn about your connection to the Holocaust by going online to the database at Yad Vashem. Also learn about some of the heroic rescuers who saved Jews at the risk of their own lives, such as Varian Fry.
Yehi Zichronim Libracha vhi nafsham tzrurot bitzrur hachayim, bgan eden yhi menuchatam.