The Holocaust Card – Always Remember

Steven Koenig

Day 3 | 2022 Inside Israel: Educational Leadership Seminar

Today was our visit to Yad Vashem (translation-”a Memorial and a Name”), Israel’s tribute to the 6,000,000 Jews who perished in the Holocaust. We started our tour with Sarah Levy, Program Director of Echoes & Reflections, right outside the entrance.  Sarah pointed to two paths, one sloping  up into openness and light (Honoring the Righteous Among Nations); the other going down into a dark, hell-realm of interactive displays on European Jewish life in the mid-1930’s through the mid 1940’s. 

Choosing the second path, Sarah led us down to the museum’s depiction of Jewish life in Europe starting in the early 1930’s. At the very beginning was one of the most poignant displays – a video collage of Jewish life, including festive singing and dancing. Then began the slow spiral down – figuratively and literally as the darkened path sloped down and traversed the museum. What began with segregation of Jews, eventually culminated with an attempt at their annihilation. The path started to rise as the stories of liberation and re-assimilation were depicted. Memorials to the victims led to the end of the upward path, and out to the light of day.

We headed back to a classroom, stopping at the Children’s Memorial.  This is a very moving dedication built with the generous donation of Abe and Edita Spiegel, whose son Uziel was murdered in Auschwitz at the age of two and a half. 1.5 million individual lights are lit here (created by only five points of light and mirrors) honoring the children who did not survive.

Back at the classroom, we met with Sheril Ochayon, Director of Echoes & Reflections for Yad Vashem. Sheril shared important resources available to teachers, to bring this Yad Vashem experience back to the classroom.

On a personal note, my father was saved by one of the Righteous Among Nations, Anton Schmid. He is commemorated at Yad Vashem on the first path that we saw when Sarah started the tour. 28,000 “Upstanders” are honored here, 200 with trees planted in their name, and the rest solemnly listed on a memorial wall. Anton was given his own tree, an Olive tree.  

I am extremely grateful to all of my traveling companions who helped me find the tree, and honored Anton with their presence in the photo below:

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