It is Holocaust Memorial day although since the word originates from religious burnt offering, it does seem paradoxically pejorative particularly in reference to the genocide of European Jewry – Shoah meaning calamity, destruction is often preferred.
Putting aside semantics the day recalls the persecution, destruction and disappearance of millions, murdered for race, creed, politics, sexuality and disability in the empire of Nazi Germany – as well as all subsequent genocides. This year the theme for focus is #dontstandby – a reference to all the local populations who actively support(ed) or facilitate(d) state policies of persecution, as well as the silent bystanders, fearful or indifferent. I designed this photoart a while ago but I did not really see what was in it until today. On close-up the background becomes like many faces – some smiling, some ghoulish and many vaporising into the abstract. [Click to enlarge]
Indeed the genocide of millions are an abstraction – hard to fathom, connect with or feel compassion for and so the lighted candle commemorates the many in the one story. Today we remember one town in one country where my husband’s extended family perished – that place was Pabienica in Poland:
On the evening of May 16, 1942, the military police went into the ghetto and ordered the Jews to leave their homes immediately, not allowing them to take anything. Under a hail of rifle butts, the Jewish people were all herded into the Krusche & Enders sports stadium. Several dozens Jews were killed along the way. They stood in the pouring rain all night and the next day. They were not allowed to move and were given no food or water. In the evening, groups “A” and “B” were ordered to split up. A freight train arrived that night at the railway station by the square. The freight cars into which people were loaded were waiting in the vicinity of the mill, some 450 meters from the stadium. The people marked “B” were pushed into the wagons. They were beaten, mothers were separated from their children, and they were all thrown into freight cars. Many people were killed during this event, mainly children, whose heads were smashed against the cars by the Nazis. The cars were then sealed; they stayed in the station for the whole night and left for Chelmno. (Virtual shtetl)