January 22, 2021
In this week’s Torah portion, Bo, we celebrate the final days of our ancient Hebrew ancestors’ time of slavery in Egypt. Next week, we recognize the end of another terrible period in Jewish history which left many survivors carrying undeserved guilt, trauma, and even shame.
Next Wednesday, January 27, marks International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which is the anniversary date of the Allied Forces’ 1945 Liberation of Auschwitz, the largest of the Nazi Concentration and Death Camps. The sights observed by the Allied Forces as they freed the prisoners from their captivity left many of these strong, healthy, and well-trained military soldiers suffering from PTSD years later. Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe, General Dwight D. Eisenhower, described his experience at Ohrdruf, a subcamp of Buchenwald, in a letter to U.S. Army Chief of Staff, General Marshall:
The things I saw beggar description. … The visual evidence and the verbal testimony of starvation, cruelty, and bestiality were so overpowering as to leave me a bit sick. … I made the visit deliberately, in order to be in a position to give first-hand evidence of these things if ever, in the future, there develops a tendency to charge these allegations merely to “propaganda.”
Eisenhower’s foresight was unfortunately prophetic. Only 76 years since the Holocaust and too many adults in the United States openly claim that the Holocaust was exaggerated or simply fictitious. And if this was not dangerous enough, the U.S. Millennial Holocaust Knowledge and Awareness Survey found that:
63 percent of all national survey respondents do not know that six million Jews were murdered, and 36 percent thought that “two million or fewer Jews” were killed during the Holocaust. Additionally, although there were more than 40,000 camps and ghettos in Europe during the Holocaust, 48 percent of national survey respondents [could] not name a single one.
However, here in San Antonio, through the generous support of our Annual Campaign donors, the Jewish Federation is able to operate our local Holocaust Memorial Museum of San Antonio (HMMSA). This museum serves over 19,000 visitors annually and provides resources for South Texas educators to teach Holocaust education.
In fact, next week, January 25-29, 2021, is the annual week designated as Texas Holocaust Remembrance Week. This 2nd Annual week of remembrance mandates Holocaust education in all Texas public school K-12 curriculum. This assigned week is a result of Senate Bill 1828, championed by four local heroines, known as the “4 Ladies in a Car”, because of their dedication to driving back and forth to Austin to educate and secure state legislators’ support for the bill.
As part of this year’s Texas Holocaust Remembrance Week, the HMMSA is offering, through a generous grant from the Texas Holocaust & Genocide Commission, two live presentations every day, as well as an additional pre-recorded presentation uploaded each day. The schedules for all the presentations can be found online, including this special video welcome from Texas State Senator José Menéndez briefly explaining the background behind Texas Holocaust Remembrance Week and the upstanding behavior of our “4 Ladies in a Car”.
We are grateful for our local visionaries who believed that building a Holocaust museum in San Antonio was a necessity and for all of you who support the museum annually through direct contributions or through Annual Campaign donations. We could not sustain this critical community-wide resource without your help… and because of your help, the Jewish Federation is: