Yesterday, I arrived in Warsaw, Poland for the “Tour of Remembrance” sponsored by Israel365. Meeting with Israel365 readers from all over the world is always a pleasure, and spending the next few days together learning about the Holocaust will certainly be a moving and profound experience for us all.
Our first stop was the Warsaw Cemetery, the largest cemetery in Poland where 250,000 Jews are buried. Our tour guide Rabbi Dovid Abrahamowitz explained that the Warsaw Cemetery was the most appropriate place to begin our tour in order to fully understand the size and breadth of the Polish Jewish community before the Shoah.
Our next stop was the infamous Umshlagplatz, the plaza outside the walls of the Warsaw Ghetto where 300,000 Jews were sent to their death. The chaos of the Warsaw Ghetto was so disorienting that the memorial built there simply contains hundreds of first names of the victims from A to Z.
A visit to Warsaw highlights the triumph of the Jewish spirit. Even though so many hundreds of thousands of Warsaw Jews lost their lives, they didn’t lose their dignity and have proven to have defeated Hitler in the long run. This monument to the brave Jewish fighters of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising was made out of a slab of fine stone from Adolf Hitler’s personal collection.
For evil to triumph all that is necessary is for good men to do nothing and be silent. Yesterday, we spent a lot of time grappling with the question “Where was the world during the Holocaust?” The answer is an embarrassment to the Western world till this very day. However, there were a few exceptions, and individuals who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust. We learned about one such righteous gentile, Jan Karski, who stood up and protected many Jews during the Shoah.
Our visit to the Warsaw Ghetto concluded with a prayer and a tribute to the fighters of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising who held off the Nazi regime for nearly one month in 1943. Their bravery and heroism provides an eternal inspiration and our Polish tour guide Yankel Scyz lit an eternal flame that burns atop the last stronghold of the Warsaw Ghetto known as Mila 18.
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