Dear Friend of Israel,
As World War II neared its end, the battle-hardened soldiers who liberated Nazi concentrations camps could not believe what they saw.
Years later, one Russian solider described his entry into Auschwitz, the notorious death camp in Poland: “When I saw the people, it was skin and bones . . . . They couldn’t even turn their heads; they stood like dead people . . . I was shocked, devastated.”
Dwight D. Eisenhower, General of the U.S. Army, was likewise appalled. “I have never felt able to describe my emotional reactions when I first came face to face with indisputable evidence of Nazi brutality,” he wrote. “I have never at any other time experienced an equal sense of shock.”
Last year I visited Auschwitz, which has been preserved as a memorial to those murdered. As I toured the camp, I thought of the countless people who suffered and died there . . . and of the thousands of Holocaust survivors that The Fellowship assists every day.
It was clearer than ever to me after that visit that we have a sacred obligation both to the dead and to the living.
We must remember the dead. We must tell the story of their suffering, as painful as it may be, both to honor their memory and to help ensure that such horrors will never occur again.
And we must act – and act quickly – to help the living. Tens of thousands of Holocaust survivors in Israel and the former Soviet Union today live in unspeakable poverty and isolation. We must ease their suffering, so that they can live the rest of their lives with a measure of comfort and dignity.
In 2005, the United Nations designated January 27 – the anniversary of the 1945 liberation of Auschwitz – as International Holocaust Remembrance Day. It’s an appropriate gesture, but what a sad irony that throughout its existence the U.N. has consistently shown a harsh bias against Israel, the state that rose from the ashes of the Holocaust.
And yet, on January 27 I will choose to think not of the folly of the U.N., but of the millions of innocents murdered by the Nazis. And I will think of those who survived and are still struggling both with bitter memories and crippling poverty, and redouble The Fellowship‘s efforts to help them.
As we move forward, let our watchwords be: We remember. We act. Not just on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, but every day, let us pledge also to act to help those who survived – and who are crying out for our help.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President
On International Holocaust Remembrance Day, we pledge to remember the 6,000,000 victims. But we cannot forget about those who survived the Holocaust. Over 150,000 Jewish survivors live in poverty. Sadly, 40 die every day, alone and forgotten. It won’t be long before none of them are left. We must help them now while there is still time. Learn how