Yom HaShoah – forced mourning? Or forced remembrance?

I’m surprised at the number of people mention that that Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Memorial Day) forces people into collective mourning and that they don’t like to be told when to mourn. These people do not want mandatory sadness.

I understand their problem with this. How can anyone mandate my mood to me? I feel the same about Tisha B’Av – the 9th of Av, a day on which the Jewish people mourn the destruction of both Temples, plus most of the other catastrophes in Jewish history. We refrain from eating and drinking, from doing anything “fun”, even from wearing leather shoes. In fact, there are many who believe that the Shoah does not deserve its own separate day of mourning, that Tisha B’Av has been instituted for precisely that reason – to remember all the terrible disasters that have befallen the Jews over time.  I disagree. I think that the only way to ensure that the Holocaust is not forgotten is to give it its own day.

I think that Yom HaShoah is not about forced mourning or forced sadness. It is a day of forced remembrance. We, the generation who are now parents of young children and teens, are the last generation to have grown up hearing the stories of survivors first hand. Our children, most likely will not know survivors like we did. We grew up seeing the wrists of camp survivors, tattooed with numbers. We grew up with grandparents, even parents, aunts, uncles who lost family, sometimes their entire family. We grew up with men and women who were on the kindertransport, people who were saved as children, while their parents were slaughtered, with scars, the full extent of which were never seen.

Our children, our grandchildren, for them, the Shoah will be part of a history book. Something they may read about. For their generation Yom HaShoah is essential. A day on which they are forced to remember something that happened in modern times to our people. Let no one undermine the importance of having a day specifically to remember what Hitler and the Nazis did to the Jews of Europe. He did not succeed in wiping us out, but if we let our children ignore his attempt, and not remember, why will they bother fighting to ensure it doesn’t happen again in the future?

No one can tell you to be sad, but there is no harm in forcing you to remember something that must never be forgotten.

6,000,000 Jewish people were murdered in the Shoah.

Never again!

יהי זכרם ברוך – may their memories be a blessing


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