Close your eyes. Picture a family full of smiles, and joy. See all the moments they spend together and support each other, through blessed times and difficult ones. Picture the holidays filled with warmth and laughter, and the Shabbat with delicious treats, while sitting around the table and hearing divrei Torah. The younger children have not yet really begun to live, whereas the older ones are only just starting their lives.
Then something destroys the serenity. There are soldiers everywhere, holding guns and wearing long, shiny boots. The family is rushed out of their house, their home, and allowed to take only minimal belongings with them. Their new residence is a corner in one of the rooms of a small house, where twenty other families live as well. The hunger and diseases are horrible, and end the lives of many people living in the ghetto.
Now they are being shoved into cattle cars with no room to breathe, with hundreds of other people just as confused as they are. The train ride lasts for more days then they can keep count of; there is no source of food or water to keep their fragile bodies from dying. They leave their wastes in the corners of the car, attracting insects and disease. When their destination is finally reached, the women and men are separated, never to see each other again. They are then led to the gas chambers where their lives are taken from them brutally. Thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of families like this one were destroyed by the Nazis, may their name and memory be obliterated.
I know this since I walked on my own feet into the gas chambers. I saw the stained walls, and felt the scratches on them made by innocent people with only the simple, and most reasonable desire to live. Statistics show that if the six million Jews had not been murdered almost seventy years ago, the worldwide Jewish population today would have been doubled, if not tripled.
The same question is asked over and over again, how could human beings become so horrific? How is it possible that they acted so maliciously towards innocent people? It is a very difficult question to answer. Humankind is, supposedly, inherently good. The fact of the matter is the Nazi army had long lost their humanity. Being able to look a mother in the eyes, while she hugs her child to her chest as close as she can, trembling, and then take her life with one merciless bullet is not a human act.
The Nazis were abominable in every way. We know today of six death camps throughout Poland, though there might have been more, where numerous Jews might have been murdered, but there are no survivors to confirm it. As frightening of a thought as that might be, the number of Jews killed in the Holocaust grows statistically every year as well, becoming closer to seven million.
I know all of this because it is information I learned on my trip to Poland last year. I trembled while stepping on the blood soaked ground of Treblinka, Chelmno, Majdanek, and Auschwitz where Jews had been slaughtered demonically. I felt the ghetto wall in Warsaw, and I visited Jewish cemeteries that have been around for centuries. I kept trying to picture myself alive during that horrible time, G-d forbid, in order to try to empathize with the holy people who are no longer living, but I just wasn’t able to.
Baruch Hashem, I have the privilege, the prerogative to live in the land that our ancestors had yearned to just set foot in. I can live a normal life as a proud Jew, and not be afraid to hide my religion – I can practice it. I attend a Jewish school, and will be serving my country next year, as it is the ideal way to show gratitude to the land I grew up in, cried in, laughed in. My living in the land promised to us by G-d as a proud Jew and belonging to the Jewish nation, while continuing along the generations is the greatest revenge. They wanted to see us lose our humanity, and we prove to them that the world does not evolve without the Jewish people. They wanted to see our nation aborted, and we fight back with the simplest of weapons – children. The murderers plan was to abolish the Jewish children first, as that would cut the nation short, for without our children there is no future. By living in Israel I am avenging in the simplest way, and that is the only way to show the Germans, the entire world and all the Holocaust deniers and anti-Semites that the Jewish nation is eternal.