I went to a Jewish preschool and Hebrew school. I knew about the holidays and culture. But, I didn’t know the dark history lurking beneath the celebratory hum of prayers, spinning dreidels, tasty hamantaschen or the crunch of matzah.
I didn’t know my traditions were things people were targeted for—simply being Jewish.
As I made my way through the youth section of my temple’s library, I started piecing things together. My mom told me I asked why a lot of the Jewish books were so sad. I distinctly remember reading a book titled “When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit.” The story is based on the experience of author Judith Kerr and her family fleeing Nazi Germany told through a child’s eyes.
I knew the book was sad, but I didn’t grasp the true magnitude. Anna, the little girl in the story, had to leave behind her beloved pink rabbit as her family escaped Germany taking with them nothing but their lives.
Now, I realize it is a story of how Hitler not only killed lives, but stole childhoods. This book had a happy ending, the family escaped. But the same isn’t true for the over six million Jews who lost their lives during the Nazi regime and the millions more, like Anna, bearing the memories of trauma.
That book was my first peek into a past some people try to forget. Some people try to deny and some people continue to perpetuate the same hatred that allowed it to happen.
But, as the holiday of Yom HaShoah reminds us, we as a Jewish people must never forget and never let happen again. Never forget and never again are two slogans the world uses when looking back on the plight of millions in the Holocaust.
In my first year at UF, I took a class called Beyond the Memory of the Holocaust. We analyzed historical and artistic presentations of the Shoah. The Shoah is the Hebrew word for the Holocaust. It means destruction. No matter how much I learned, how much I read, or how much I analyzed, piecing together the destruction of lives and the intention and spite with which it was done is nearly impossible to comprehend.