By Tracey Paliath, Esq.
Recently, I read a story on the internet that I was sure had to be fake. Jews were being told that they had to register with the government in Ukraine or have all of their property seized. This is 2014. Things like this don’t happen anymore, and I was sure I would find that snopes.com or some other reliable news source would have debunked this horrible story—a cruel “joke” during the month in which we observe Holocaust Rememberance Day—undoubtedly cooked up by a sympathizer of the anti-semitic Kansas City shooter.
I felt dizzy when I woke up the following day and learned what I read on the internet was now being carried as a legitimate news story by outlets like USA Today and the Jerusalem Post. People are now saying these leaflets are NOT from the Ukrainian Government, but regardless of who is responsible, they still exist. Unfathomable. Then I realized that my sentiment is probably exactly what my friend Inge Weinberger must have thought when she heard about Kristallnacht, just a few miles from her childhood home.
One minute, her father was the town doctor, caring mostly for non-Jews, and the next, her family was hurrying to flee their home in Germany, in fear for their lives simply because they were Jews. I’m sure it’s what many others who survived the Holocaust thought – it can’t happen, not here. But a little voice told them, or their parents, that it could happen, and was going to happen, and they left their home countries however they could, some managing to escape on boats, others hiding in the woods or hidden in wine barrels in the homes of incredibly brave non-Jews.
But what about the others? Those who didn’t get the sickness in their guts or alarm bells in their heads until it was too late? Those who knew, but had no way to try to escape? Millions of them died. Some of those who survived have, despite the horrible conditions in concentration camps, unselfishly shared with us their stories, so that we would never forget. So that history would never repeat itself. So that we as a global community could act before another Holocaust could happen. Humanity owes these people a tremendous debt. These people who stepped up to be heard when they had every right and reason to go hide and bury the atrocities they had witnessed. We owe them not simply because of what they experienced, but because they shared their stories. They gave us the greatest living history lesson the world has ever known, and for that, we must heed it. We must stand up NOW, today, and prevent something that I never thought I’d see in my lifetime – Jews being forced to register with the government. There is no time to waste.
On April 27, I will attend Baltimore’s community commemoration of Holocaust Remembrance Day, where I will light a candle in memory of Inge, a Jewish Community leader and Holocaust survivor who died last year. I have written something to be read about her life and what she meant to me, and I am looking forward to this sad, but important day for me and for all Jews. Holocaust Remembrance Day takes on a new meaning for me now, however. Lighting a candle at a service is necessary for healing, but insufficient for the cause. To truly honor Inge, and the many survivors I am honored to know (or have known), I must fight to bring attention to what is happening in Ukraine like my life depends on it. Because it does. And yours does too.
By Tracey Paliath, Esq., Director of Economic Services, Jewish Community Services
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