I just realized today is Holocaust Rememberance Day. I can't let the sun go down without remembering the millions who died, and the millions more who somehow escaped death but suffered so horribly.
I once wrote a newspaper article about a woman from Ukraine who told me how the Nazis came to her village when she was a teenager. She said that overnight the Jewish families in the village disappeared. Then she and the other young people who were not Jewish were ordered to come to the village square.
She was afraid to go. Her grandmother told her to do whatever she was told to do and she would be all right.
And so she did. She obeyed every order as quickly as she could, no matter how hungry, exhausted, sick, or humiliated she was.
She was sent to Germany as slave labor. She survived the war and met a handsome young GI when the Americans finally arrived in Germany. They married and she became an American. By the time I met her, her hair was white, her handsome GI had been gone for many years, and she was so lonely.
She visited high schools and spoke to the students about how important it is not to use drugs. She said she would have given anything to have a crust of bread when she was their age, so they certainly had no excuse to use drugs.
I took my daughter along when I interviewed her. My daughter was 14, I believe. She sat across from this woman, who stroked my daughter's beautiful long hair and looked at her so lovingly. She talked and talked and told us stories. I could tell she was desperate to keep us there, to have some company, but eventually we had to go.
A story closer to the Holocaust that I've told before in my message center and will no doubt tell again is about the day my daughter, my husband, and I visited the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. I didn't want to go. We were in D.C. for a Van Gogh exhibit and we couldn't get in. My daughter wanted to go to the Holocaust Museum and I didn't because I already knew so much and had seen so many pictures and it was just too much.
But that day I encountered a real face from the Holocaust, not just a photograph. We were in a room with bunks from Auschwitz, these horrible wood frames with slats that people were crowded into. A woman was patting the wood frame and crying.
A young woman who worked at the museum asked her not to touch them. She said with a heavy accent, "You don't understand. I slept in these."
And there was the Holocaust right in front of me.
Outstanding books about the Holocaust abound and there's no better place for a young person to start than The Diary Of A Young Girl. It was the first book I read that taught me something about the true faces of the Holocaust.
I saw a documentary some years ago on PBS about what happened to Anne Frank after she and her family were taken from their hiding place. Anne and her sister Margot survived for a time in a concentration camp. A woman who was in the same barracks said that Anne and Margot became ill. They slept near the door and when someone opened the door, Anne and Margot would cry out "Shut the Door!" because it was cold.
But then their cries became weaker and weaker until finally Anne cried out alone and then no one was left to cry out. She died two weeks before the camp was liberated.
Lord, I ask you, let her be remembered forever.