I Wish It Were Fiction

Holocaust Memories 1939 - 1945

The Destruction of the Jewish Community in Apt (Opatow)

Our generation that survived the Holocaust in Europe is getting smaller and smaller. I know that it is difficult for survivors to speak about or discuss their tragic experiences. Despite these feelings however, it is imperative to tell the whole story — every detail of it — so that future generations will know what we endured during the Hitler occupation of Europe.

What was our generation — the generation of survivors —like? We were fortunate to be part of the multi-million Jewish community of Europe. We had the opportunity to enjoy the fruits of the creative Jewish achievements in Poland. We were inspired by the works of the great Yiddish writers, educators and thinkers, that enriched our lives; the beautiful sound of Yiddish, Yiddish literature and culture, the thousand-year old Jewish music and song still resonate in our ears.

We were also with our people in its tragic and horrendous nights and days of the great tragedy. We shares their pain, insults and torture. We saw with our own eyes the fires of the burning synagogues. We saw the charred bodies of our sisters and brothers and children. We-heard the agonized cries of the tortured victims, whose last plea to us was:

Never forget nor forgive!

Much has changed since those days and nights of annihilation, when an entire Jewish community, its literature and culture were destroyed. Let us pledge that we will fulfill the plea of the martyrs NEVER TO FORGET NOR FORGIVE! That we will never have anything to do with German murderers! That we will not tread on German soil which is saturated with Jewish blood!     

For hundreds of years we observed a ban on any contacts with Spain, after its expulsion of Jews. Why not a ban on Germany, that was much more cruel to Jews than Spain. The slaughter of European Jewry was the work of the German murderers and their cohorts.

The reckoning of the Jewish people is not only with the Germans, but also with the rest of the world. And it must not be forgotten. We should never stop asking and demanding an answer to the question: why did the world allow such a horrible crime against the Jewish people, and particularly to the almost complete annihilation of the Jews of Poland? For Polish Jews, who lived in Poland for almost a thousand years, helped Poland in its progress and development, participated actively in the Polish uprisings against the Tsarist oppressors and in the struggles for freedom, it is tragically painful to have seen Poles help the Germans in their extermination of the Polish Jewish community.

We of the generation that miraculously survived the Holocaust is getting on in years. What did this generation represent? We had been privileged to live as part of the multi-million Jewish community of Poland and the other Eastern European countries. We had the good fortune to partake in the activities of the Jewish people. We enjoyed the works of the great thinkers and writers that the Jewish community has produced. We were strengthened by the results of a thousand years of Jewish creative life.

We also had the opportunity to be with our people in their horribly tragic days and nights. We shared the pain and torture, the insults and humiliation. We saw the flames that engulfed synagogues and yeshivas. We saw the charred bodies of our dear and beloved, of our brothers and sisters, of our grandfathers and of children.

We the few who have survived have the duty to tell the whole gruesome story of the holocaust to the younger generation. Let us remember that we, the survivors bear the responsibility to the children, who were born after the war, to make them aware of what happened. These children who live in conditions of freedom and who are influenced by what they see on television and radio and by the fact that they enjoy freedom in a country, where justice and democracy prevail, there is the danger that they may think that what happened in European countries cannot happen here. We must make them realize that such danger exists and they must always be on guard.

It is not my intention to preach to the non-Jewish world about what happened in Europe during the second world war. They are well aware of it. They know quite well of the planned genocide of the Jewish people. They know what was done to us. But it is most important that the children of the survivors and their children should know what the non-Jewish world is capable of doing to us. Six million Jews, our fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters were murdered. The post-war born children of the survivors must be aware of the fact, that these gruesome murders were committed not in the jungles in dark Africa, but in Europe, in countries that consider themselves civilized, with high culture, constitutional regimes, and systems of so-called justice. Let the young generation realize that the danger exists, that under certain conditions it can happen here. Let them realize that it was not only the Germans who murdered our people. Large sections of the people in occupied countries, Ukrainians, Lithuanians, Poles and others assisted the Germans in the horrible crimes committed against our people.

Oh, how much there is to tell. There is not enough paper or writers, or even enough words that could describe the horrible saga of suffering that our people were subjected to during the days and nights of the Holocaust.

It is our duty to make certain that there will be no possibility that such a tragedy should ever happen again. The terrible thing about those years is not only what happened, but the mere fact that this plan to wipe out an entire people could be accomplished. Hitler was not the only one who ordered the annihilation of our people. But he was the first one who almost succeeded in accomplishing his nefarious plan. He and his accomplices succeeded in driving us in cattle cars and bringing us to the death camps that were specially built for the nefarious purpose of burning alive the victims. And this was possible in the 20th century, and the world remained indifferent, even though the terrible events were known.

Why and for whom all this has to be written? The answer to both questions is quite clear. First of all for one’s self; then as a witness to the tragedy and to describe the martyrdom of the perished ones and the survivors and mainly for the future generations so that they will understand what happened. When our time will come and we will leave this world, the danger is that all we know and we witnessed will be buried with us. But when we will leave our knowledge of all the events in writing it will remain for history. And I believe in the immortality of history. Thus when none of the survivors will not be alive any more, our writing will remain for hundreds of years, to be studied by future generations.

We are the last generation whose responsibility is to bear witness to the history of the martyrdom of millions. We Jews must never forget nor forgive the Germans for their evil deeds, for murdering six million innocent Jews. Six million! How horrible! How tragic to even utter the words six million! It tears your heart out. One has not enough tears to shed. And why the world was not punished for their inaction in face of this genocide is very difficult to understand.

"Never forget nor forgive"

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