Monday, June 30, 2014

Reflections from the 60th Anniversary Mission

Three generations (left to right): Rosalyn Gaon, Elena (Puppi) Gaon and
David Feuerstein, President of the Chile Association for Yad Vashem

(Photo: Isaac Harari)
Several participants of Yad Vashem's International 60th Anniversary Mission which took place June 11-19, 2014 in Poland and Israel are still sharing some thoughts regarding their experience. Among them are Rosalyn Gaon, granddaughter to Holocaust survivor David Feuerstein, President of the Chile Association for Yad Vashem, who spoke about the cross-generational responsibility of Holocaust commemoration:  
"As the grandchild of a Holocaust survivor, I feel it is my duty to pass on the history of the Holocaust to future generations. It is our duty to find the right words to define the Shoah, and our principal duty is never to let such horrors happen ever again. We have to remain vigilant and active, we have to react, tell our children, our brothers and sisters, we have to tell the world what happened. We owe it to the victims, to the survivors, to their families; we owe it to them to pass on their stories, and to never forget what they went through on our behalf…"
Ron Diskin and Jackie Frankel, U.S. Donor Affairs Liaison in the International
Relations Division, Yad Vashem in the Square of Hope (Photo: Martin Sykes-Haas)
Another participant of the Mission to share his experience was Ron Diskin, grandson of Abe and Edita Spiegel, benefactors of Yad Vashem and donors of the Children's Memorial. The unique memorial was built to commemorate the 1.5 million Jewish children who were murdered during the Holocaust, including the Spiegels' son Uziel who was murdered in Auschwitz at the age of two and a half. The following text contains some of his reflections from the 60th Anniversary Mission:
"I was honored this week to be a participant of the international mission to remember the past and shape the future of the Jews. For three consecutive days I saw many aspects of Yad Vashem, why it was created, why it is constantly enhanced and its ultimate objective. What makes Yad Vashem so special is that it is a live entity, comprised of so much passion, emotion, pain, pleasure, ignorance, wisdom, hatred and love.
Some people are horrified and saddened by the genocide they are reminded of at Yad Vashem; I am inspired by what I see at Yad Vashem. Of course, I see the many names of the deceased, and I think of what my family went through in the various camps where most of them were annihilated, and few lived. However, this is not the essence for me.
The Children's Memorial at Yad Vashem (Photo: Yossi Ben-David)
When I walk around Yad Vashem and participate in its growth and future, I witness the extraordinary achievements made by the survivors of the Holocaust. I feel, see, hear and am touched by the legacy of the intense passion and dedication of 2nd and 3rd generation Holocaust survivors. I focus on how people were united, strengthened and hardened by tragedy, not how they were weakened and almost destroyed by hatred and ignorance.  I am a 3rd generation Holocaust survivor. My grandfather, Abraham Spiegel, escaped on his death march from one of the four camps he suffered in. Ten thousand men fled into the freezing forest upon his escape, 9,500 were immediately gunned down and terminated like vermin [as Hitler often called my people]. 108 members of the Spiegel family were killed in the Holocaust. Millions more of our people were killed. My grandfather created The Children’s Memorial at Yad Vashem to honor his first-born son who was murdered in the gas chamber in Auschwitz at age two, and equally, to honor the many souls who died an ugly death.
My grandfather was a successful banker who had the means to create parks and contribute to museums in Israel. Regardless of a lady or man’s background, any individual can contribute in her or his own way to Yad Vashem. What is right for one indiviudal may not be what is best for another:
Participants in Yad Vashem 60th Anniversary International Mission replace a
tree that had been planted in honor of the Righteous Among the Nations that
was uprooted in the severe snowstorm of Winter 2013 (L-R) Miriam
Ben-Sander, Liaison for the Canadian Society for Yad Vashem, Yaron
Ashkenazi, CEO of the Canadian Society for Yad Vashem, Ed Sonshine,
Benefactor of Yad Vashem, Fran Sonshine, National Chair of the Canadian
Society for Yad Vashem, Israel Mida, Yad Vashem Benefactor and
Holocaust survivor Joe Gottdenker, Yad Vashem Benefactor
(Photo: Isaac Harari)
The best way anyone of any background, gender, creed or race can contribute to Yad Vashem is by taking family and peers there to see how beautiful and resilient my people are; to see how much love and unity can emanate from so much hatred and destruction. The emotions and thoughts of the people who visit Yad Vashem are the true bloodline, which keeps Yad Vashem so vivacious. I was a volunteer combat soldier here in Israel. I stand ready to defend my people as a professional warrior, but I hope, intend and try to protect my people with love and wisdom. Destruction is easy; creation is so beautiful. Yad Vashem is not a museum where you will see the destruction of my people. Yad Vashem is a museum where you will see the re-creation, unification, evolution, boldness and beauty of my people. Yad Vashem is the paragon of love, strength, unity and culture." 

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