“Never Again” Happened…Again

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by Aviram Eldar
May 2024

It was noon. Eva, a six-year-old girl, held her mother Ilana's hand, and together with her older brother, Jury, and hundreds of other Jews like them, they walked towards the gathering point where they were summoned by the Nazis in occupied Hungary. The procession was accompanied by Nazi soldiers with German Shepherd dogs barking at the crowd as they walked towards their deaths. The trucks were already waiting for them there, ready to take them to the train station that would transport them to the Auschwitz extermination camp.

Upon arriving at the gathering point, they were told that the children would be transferred on separate trucks from their parents. Eva's mother kissed her and Jury, and asked him to take care of little Eva. After a final hug, Ilana walked towards one of the trucks and disappeared into the crowd. The Nazi soldiers circulated among the people with their dogs barking incessantly. After a few minutes, Eva saw a man dressed in a suit and tie who arrived on a motorcycle sidecar. The man got off the sidecar seat with a document in his hand, shouting at the Nazi officers that he had a list of Swedish diplomats who had been mistakenly loaded on to the trucks. The list contained the names of hundreds of Jews, including the name of Eva's mother, Ilana. This is how the lives of my family were saved by the Swedish diplomat, Righteous Among the Nations - Raoul Wallenberg.

Eva and her family lived out the remainder of the war in the Budapest ghetto under conditions of severe overcrowding and extreme hunger. Eva's father had been taken to forced labor camps two years earlier, where he was killed in a minefield. The Nazis forced him and many other Jews to walk through the minefields to clear the way for the Nazi army.

This is part of my family’s story, and how some of them survived the Holocaust. I have heard many more harrowing testimonies about the Holocaust, most of them far more shocking than my parents' story. And there are hundreds of thousands more stories that I have yet to hear - stories of impossible heroism and survival that leave their listeners without understanding how such a thing could have happened, and how humans are capable of such vile acts. The greater wonder is how people endured the horrors they described.

I remember my visit to the Auschwitz extermination camp in 2006. It was a beautiful summer day in Poland, and as I stood there in front of the barracks that screamed the horrors that had taken place there, I experienced a profound shock - the extermination camp was not in black and white. It no longer looked like something that had happened in the distant past. The realization of the harsh reality that had taken place on European soil hit me. The murder and mass extermination took place in broad daylight, under the blue skies, in front of the green forests and the grass that grew on the cursed ground where hundreds of thousands of Jews were systematically and monstrously exterminated.

Every year, on Holocaust Remembrance Day, prime ministers and presidents throughout the generations proclaim from the stage – “Never Again! We will never allow the horrors of the Holocaust that occurred before the establishment of the State of Israel to happen again.” But, tragically, the horrors we knew in the Holocaust and the many pogroms that occurred before it returned to us again on October 7, 2023.

The descriptions from the disaster victim identification organization personnel who arrived in the Israeli communities hours after the massacre occurred were sickening and shocking. Many of the soldiers who first arrived on the scene also told of horrific and gruesome things that the terrorists had done to men, women, & children. These atrocities reminded us of the forgotten events of the Holocaust that we had hoped would never happen again.

Children hid in closets from the terrorists; young people who had only been dancing and enjoying themselves a few hours earlier hid behind bushes without moving for long hours; many women were raped, limbs were severed, bodies were decapitated, men were tortured & sodomized, and entire families with children were burned alive. It is difficult to put into writing the shocking testimonies of what happened on October 7, 2023. The massacre carried out by Hamas terrorists reminds us of the terrible pogroms carried out by the Nazis, with one significant difference: today, we, the Jewish people, have a state. Although that morning, it disappeared for a few hours, it came back to fight the terrorists, who were eventually subdued.

On Holocaust Memorial Day, we remember all the horrors that the Nazis did to us. The trains that transported hundreds of thousands of Jews to the extermination camps; the gas chambers; our people who hid in fear for months and years; the extreme hunger; the burning of bodies; and the humiliation and helplessness experienced by the Jews in the face of the evil and criminal rule of the Nazis.

The State of Israel was established as a result of the events of the Holocaust and many other riots that occurred before it, according to the vision of the state's seer, Benjamin Ze'ev (Theodor) Herzl, who saw the actions of the anti-Semites in Europe and understood that a state must be established for the Jewish people, where they can live and reside in peace and security. We, the Jewish people, have no other place; this is the land of our fathers, and no force will succeed in exiling us again. By God’s powerful hand, we live today in the land of Israel, thanks to a faithful God who fulfilled His promise according to what is written in the Prophets to bring us back to our land from all corners of the earth. He is bringing us back to Him, physically and spiritually.

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