Remembering a Dark Past, Ensuring a Bright Future

Yael Eckstein  |  January 20, 2021

Remembering Holocaust with view from gates of Kaufering, Dachau concentration camp

On January 27, the world will mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which commemorates the genocide of 6 million Jews and 11 million others during World War II. It is a day to reflect on the tragedy, remember the victims, and to reaffirm our commitment to never let such heinous acts happen again. Each year, we declare “Never again!” But this year, I have a new appreciation for what it truly means to uphold that promise.

Rita Clements-Fleisner, a dear friend of The Fellowship, recently told me about her heroic father, LeRoy Clements, and his experiences during World War II. Clements was a strong, 6’2” golden gloves boxer, a medic, and a decorated war hero. As Rita explained, God had given him the strength for the task at hand, but nothing could have prepared him for what he saw towards the end of the war. After days marching across Germany in the cold and snow, Clements became one of the first U.S. soldiers to enter Kaufering concentration camp, the largest and worst of the Dachau sub-camps. What he and his comrades discovered when they liberated Kaufering shook them to their core.

Rita shared how her father was heartbroken when he saw the terrible suffering and death of God’s chosen people. Photos and videos documenting the liberation of Kaufering show emaciated victims, many lying dead and abandoned, and others just barely alive. Clements lovingly tended to the survivors and gave them everything he had from his remaining supplies. After the war, Clements returned home, but he bore those wartime scars for the rest of his life. He could barely speak about the horrors that he witnessed. Instead, he would just cry.

A Legacy of Love and Compassion

Rita told me this story to explain why she feels passionately about supporting The Fellowship’s On Wings of Eagles program, which brings Jews home to Israel from countries around the world where they suffer from extreme poverty and anti-Semitism. Helping Jews move to their biblical homeland is Rita’s way of continuing her father’s legacy of love and compassion for the Jewish people.

On International Holocaust Remembrance Day, people often comment about the importance of not just remembering what happened during the Holocaust, but of taking meaningful action towards preventing another one. Indeed, thoughts and talk alone will never be enough to stop history from repeating itself. Rather, we need to take concrete action to protect Jewish people now and in the future. Rita’s story reminded me that bringing Jews home to Israel is one of the most powerful steps we can take towards achieving that goal. Moreover, everything we do to support Israel strengthens the only Jewish country, a safe haven for Jews around the world.

The Best Times Are Yet to Come

As I remember the victims of the Holocaust on January 27, including members of my own family (on my mother’s side) who perished at the hands of the Nazis, I will find comfort in knowing that there are people like LeRoy and Rita who will do everything they can to protect the Jewish people. I will take comfort, too, in knowing that the return of the Jews to their ancient homeland is the fulfillment of biblical prophecy and marks the start of a new era in history.

I firmly believe that the best times are yet to come. In the meantime, we must do all that we can to stop evil and protect the innocent everywhere in the world – by remembering the past and taking meaningful action to ensure a brighter future.

With blessings from the Holy Land,

Yael Eckstein's Signature

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