Yesterday – Wednesday, 18 April 2012 – began Holocaust Remembrance Day 2012. It is now coming to a close as I write.
For those unaware, the Holocaust refers to the genocide of Jews, primarily, and of Gypsies, Jehovah’s Witnesses, the crippled, aged, mentally ill, and those with other disabilities, including homosexuals, dissidents and any others whom Nazis sought to eradicate because they thought them either subhuman, or ideological enemies.
In recent years, the word “holocaust” is being replaced in popular usage with another word “shoah,” because the word “holocaust” refers to a burnt offering as sacrifice made to the Almighty. The Jewish genocide was neither 1.) a burnt offering; and 2.) was not an offering to the Almighty. Shoah means catastrophe. Both words, “holocaust” and “shoah,” are Hebrew in origin.
One of the most fascinating stories of Remembrance comes from a tiny town of 1600 in the rural mountains of southeastern Tennessee.
Tucked away in the gentle rolling green hills where coal mining is a way of life for many, is a memorial to the 6,000,000+ people brutally killed by Hitler’s Nazi regime. Even more fascinating is that the memorial was a project by the middle school children of Whitwell. For example, who would imagine that children whom are largely isolated from world events by their location, who are homogeneously white, Protestant Christians, would have any connection to the tragedy that remains one of the most brutal scars in human history?
The 2004 documentary film Paper Clips retraces the steps in the process of bring that memorial to fruition.
But moreover, you may be asking “Why remember?”
For the simple reason that “Those who forget history are condemned to repeat it”
‘Paper Clips‘ Links Town, Holocaust Legacy
April 18, 2012 – Deborah Hirsch, Jewish Exponent Staff
Whitwell, Tenn.The Jewish population of Whitwell, Tenn., increased by 5,300 percent on Sunday as a busload of 53 teens and adults from Har Zion Temple pulled into the tiny, rural town.
| Har Zion student Rachel Weiss tours the rail car
Photo by Jay Gorodetzer.
The mostly white, Protestant population here has grown accustomed to welcoming tourists since middle schoolers collecting paper clips to represent the Holocaust death toll picked up media attention and eventually built a full-fledged memorial. But this was the first time they’d greeted so many Jews from quite so far away: 27 students plus parents and clergy from the Conservative synagogue in Penn Valley.
“We’re standing in Appalachia and not somewhere you’d expect that people would care, and I feel like they care even more,” said Jordan Gottlieb, a freshman at the Shipley School.
The impetus for the whirlwind overnight trip came from Norman Einhorn, co-principal of Har Zion’s Hebrew high school. He’d been using the 2004 Paper Clips documentary to teach his students its “incredible lesson about taking care of others,” and arranged to have Whitwell teacher Sandra Roberts come to Har Zion in November. So moved by her speech, he vowed — “in the heat of the moment” — that synagogue members would find a way to visit the memorial.
In less than six months, he had more Read the rest of this entry »