It is International Holocaust Memorial Day today, and although it is not marked in Israel since we have our own Yom Hashoah after Pesach, this is a fitting time to both talk about the Shoah and those who would deny it.
The pathology and psychology of Holocaust deniers is a subject which I won’t discuss here today though I have addressed it on this blog in the past. Suffice to say that the Holocaust deniers seek to belittle the Jewish people’s experience on the one hand, and thus to deny us the ability to complain about antisemitism or the right to live in safety in our own country, in fact they deny Israel the right to exist at all, while at the same time they compare us to the very Nazis who they deny committed any crimes. I did say it was a pathology.
But this week, putting the lie to the Holocaust deniers, it was revealed to us that an excavation project being carried out at the site of the Sobibor concentration camp has uncovered ID tags belonging to Jewish children who were murdered there (via DAP):
Four metal identity tags belonging to young children murdered at the Sobibor extermination camp were uncovered in a joint excavation project carried out by Yoram Haimi from the Israel Antiquities Authority, Wojtek Mazurek from Poland and Ivar Schute from Holland, the IAA announced on Tuesday.
The four tags carried the children’s names, date of birth and hometown – Amsterdam.
“With this information, we were able to find more about them by consulting the relevant archives,” Haimi explained to The Jerusalem Post. The researchers contacted the Herinneringscentrum Kamp Westerbork, a former transit camp where Dutch Jews were gathered before being sent east, that today serves as a research center and memorial.
Seeing the pictures of smiling children and thinking of their terrible end has been especially hard, the archaeologist said.
Lea Judith De La Penha was only six when she was killed. Her pendant was found near the camp’s railway platform. Deddie Zak was just a little older than her. He was deported to Sobibor on a train that became notorious for the large number of children that carried – some 1,300, ages 4 to 8 – many of them alone.
“We found his tag in the area of a crematorium, which probably means that his body was burned while wearing it. This is all that remains of him,” the researcher said.
Annie Kapper, age 12, was deported to Sobibor with her family on March 30, 1943. All 1,255 Jews who were on the train were immediately sent to the gas chambers. Her tag was found near one of the mass graves in the camp. On the same train was also 11-year-old David Juda Van der Velde, whose aluminum tag was uncovered in the area of one of the chambers.
About 250,000 Jews were killed at Sobibor, most of them immediately upon arrival. The camp was destroyed by the Nazis after the prisoners attempted a revolt in October 1943.
Haimi explained that when his team started to work, very little of the camp remained. Over the years, they managed to uncover the site of the gas chambers, the crematoria, some of the mass graves and even a tunnel that the prisoners were trying to excavate in order to escape along with some digging tools.
Moreover, the archaeologists unearthed some 75,000 objects.
“We found plates, forks, jewelry, all sorts of items that the prisoners would bring with them,” he said. “In a well, we found some 20 golden wedding rings that the victims chose to throw away to avoid leaving them in the hands of the Nazis.”
I would remind you that my mother’s three brothers, who were sent to ostensible safety at age 5, 7 and 9 on a kindertransport from Frankfurt to Holland in 1938, were subsequently transported to Sobibor in March 1943, aged 9, 11 and 13 and murdered on the day they arrived. You can read about my mother’s family story on my family history page.
Not only must we never forget and always remember, we must make sure that others never forget as well, so that history cannot be denied and the victims made victims once more.
As international human rights lawyer and former Canadian Minister of Justice Irwin Cotler stated yesterday on the eve of International Holocaust Remembrance Day:
יהי זכרם ברוך.
As I always do on these days of commemoration, I invite readers to visit my pages on my family history during the Shoah.