Today is Holocaust Memorial day in Britain and the 64th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz by the allies. I am due to visit Auschwitz in March- I am taking two Sixth Form students (aged 16/17) and I have to confess I am a little nervous to go there because of what was done there and the sadness I feel- even at this distance from it. Faced directly with this evil; the place where innocent people were tortured and died I don't know how I will interact with an environment like that. I have to be supportive and responsible enough to sustain my students as they encounter the reality of it. I hope I will be strong enough. Its not that I don't think they should see me cry or express emotion- on the contrary I would be proud to show my feelings about the death caused by hatred and senseless persecution- it is that I know I must have enough strength in me to understand and convey that this is not where it ends. This terrible place designed for cruelty and death shall not triumph. I know that the great Maximillian Kolbe and Edith Stein entered this place and refused to let it degrade them. I am honoured to walk where they did. It is love like theirs that transforms pointless hatred into exemplary love. I thought I would hand my blog to someone far worthier than me to comment:
From John Paul II's speech at Yad Vashem March 2000:
The words of the ancient Psalm, rise from our hearts: "I have become like a broken vessel. I hear the whispering of many - terror on every side - as they scheme together against me, as they plot to take my life. But I trust in you, O Lord: I say, 'you are my God."'
In this place of memories, the mind and heart and soul feel an extreme need for silence. Silence in which to remember. Silence in which to try to make some sense of the memories which come flooding back. Silence because there are no words strong enough to deplore the terrible tragedy of the Shoah.My own personal memories are of all that happened when the Nazis occupied Poland during the war. I remember my Jewish friends and neighbours, some of whom perished, while others survived. I have come to Yad Vashem to pay homage to the millions of Jewish people who, stripped of everything, especially of human dignity, were murdered in the Holocaust. More than half a century has passed, but the memories remain.Here, as at Auschwitz and many other places in Europe, we are overcome by the echo of the heart-rending laments of so many. Men, women and children, cry out to us from the depths of the horror that they knew. How can we fail to heed their cry? No one can forget or ignore what happened. No one can diminish its scale.We wish to remember. But we wish to remember for a purpose, namely to ensure that never again will evil prevail, as it did for the millions of innocent victims of Nazism.
How could man have such utter contempt for man? Because he had reached the point of contempt for God. Only a godless ideology could plan and carry out the extermination of a whole people.The honour given to the 'Just Gentiles' by the state of Israel at Yad Vashem for having acted heroically to save Jews, sometimes to the point of giving their own lives, is a recognition that not even in the darkest hour is every light extinguished. That is why the Psalms and the entire Bible, though well aware of the human capacity for evil, also proclaims that evil will not have the last word.Out of the depths of pain and sorrow, the believer's heart cries out: "I trust in you, O Lord: 'I say, you are my God."'Jews and Christians share an immense spiritual patrimony, flowing from God's self-revelation. Our religious teachings and our spiritual experience demand that we overcome evil with good. We remember, but not with any desire for vengeance or as an incentive to hatred. For us, to remember is to pray for peace and justice, and to commit ourselves to their cause. Only a world at peace, with justice for all, can avoid repeating the mistakes and terrible crimes of the past.