Building Bridges Across Cultures Through Holocaust Education
International Holocaust Memorial Day: United Nations January 27, 2017
My father said, “It is a great pity that so few of us lived to tell their story and lived even to smile about it”. He did and he hoped we would understand.
During an intimate moment before he died, he gave me a WWII era, green metal box. It contained over 700 letters written to his family from the army on all sorts of paper. From Nazi letterhead, to his monogrammed bar mitzvah stationery which he recovered in Brussels, from the home they fled four days before the Nazis bombed in May1940, he wrote with abandon.That building became German army headquarters and was never a residential building again. Now its home to, among other organizations, a UN Information Office.
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, family and friends, a book alone cannot change the humanitarian crisis we face today, with war waged by Assad, DAESCH or Boko Haram, but it might dissuade a disenfranchised mind from being pulled farther toward violent extremism.
IF a connection is made, history might resonate enough to strap a book bag to a back instead of a bomb to a chest.
The greatest monument we can build to commemorate the Holocaust is by the sustained development of education toward the prevention of extremism; the leading cause of terrorism and genocide.
WE must reach out to other faiths and to other cultures to build bridges. WE are at a critical tipping point; the tide of anti-semitism, of racism, of xenophobia and populism with the resulting violence is in part the cause of this human migration, reaching 65 million people fleeing war, climate change and poverty.
It’s an epidemic.
Is diplomacy enough during this violent era? The lines between TERRORISM AND GENOCIDE are blurring.
If diplomacy is not supported by quality and sustained education early in childhood, the global community will continue to be blindsided by an extremist stranglehold on Human Rights.
Education alone can’t prevent the recruitment of vulnerable minds, but, it can provide the critical thinking skills to aid in the prevention of violent extremism.
Someday You Will Understand: My Father’s Private WWII, is based entirely upon my father’s letters, and the testimony he gave to Steven Spielberg’s USC Shoah Foundation.
It’s a coming-of-age adventure story of an unusual young survivor who crossed enemy lines to escape the Holocaust. It’s about one young man who entered the US Army, a stateless alien recruit, as a refugee who promoted himself until he became a multi-lingual OSS interrogator. He carried on a one-man war against HIS SS adversaries by vetting and interrogating Italian Fascisti and Nazi war criminals from the masses.
His victims went straight to Nuremberg. He chose RULE of LAW over violence.
Horrified by the extent of the Nazi genocide and the condition of the survivors, he stepped in to help by lobbying extensively with Jewish relief agencies, appealing to family friends, and ultimately writing a letter to Eleanor Roosevelt, pleading with her to intervene on their behalf. Many were still living in concentration camp conditions \commingling with Nazi war criminals.
The power of one CAN change lives.
My father, made his way through war torn Europe acting upon his responsibility to protect the Surviving Remnant. If we are to protect against atrocities, future genocides and crimes against humanity, then it is imperative that Holocaust Education form the foundation upon which this generation, and generations to come will be insured a safe future; removed from the threat of state-sponsored violence.
My responsibility is to never forget. My mandate is to bring “his-story”,history, forward by building the greatest monument I can to commemorate the Holocaust; by ensuring that SOMEDAY YOU WILL UNDERSTAND becomes an educational tool.