EDITOR’S NOTE: Carolyn Tomlin is co-author of “The Secret Holocaust Diaries: The Untold Story of Nonna Bannister.” Bannister, a Christian, was the only Holocaust survivor from her Russian family.
JACKSON, Tenn. (BP)–“Never forget! Never, never let them forget! Tell your children and grandchildren about the atrocities committed to innocent people by Hitler,” wrote Nonna Bannister, a young Russian girl and Holocaust survivor. “Death comes quickly, and we will die sooner or later. But it is the life after death that fills us with great hope, and we should never be afraid of dying. However, if we learn how to survive even when we are faced with death, we become stronger and can live until God is ready to take us into eternity.”
On Sunday America observes National Holocaust Remembrance Day — a time to remember the more than 6 million Jews and untold thousands of other people who died during the Holocaust in World War II. The observance also marks the anniversary of the Warsaw ghetto uprising of April 19-May 16, 1943 where Jews made the decision to die fighting rather than accept death at the German execution camps. Established by the United States Congress, the Day of Remembrance has become our nation’s annual commemoration of the Holocaust.
Writers such as Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel author of “Night,” speak of reasons to remember as he writes, “For the dead and the living, we must bear witness. For not only are we responsible for the memories of the dead, we are also responsible for what we are doing with these memories.”
A few survivors, such as Nonna Bannister kept her story a secret until late in life. Yet many people carried their accounts to the grave. Why? It was too painful to reflect back on these memories and to talk about the suffering. Refusing to open painful recollections, they tried to live a normal life.
In remembering the Holocaust, churches, schools and other organizations are combining activities that teach about faith in God, forgiveness and the value of human life. Communities across our nation reach out to those of all faiths and join hands in Holocaust remembrance activities.
As pastors, church leaders, parents and teachers, how can you use the Holocaust to teach values of human life? How can you teach young people to think for themselves and not follow the wrong crowd? And how can you help youth deal with a world that may often be unfair? Perhaps these activities/discussion starters will help you begin:
— Hitler wanted to create the ideal race. If a person had light-colored skin and blue or green eyes, they were more likely to survive. How does this view conflict with the value of human life?
— Situation: Your family is Jewish. You and your family must wear a yellow star sewn to the outside of your coat whenever you are on the street or in public. How does this make you feel? Write a one-page report on this topic.
— During the war in Europe, families had little food to eat. People used ration coupons and stood in long lines to buy a small amount. Many people died from starvation. For one day, eat only a small piece of bread and a cup of thin soup. Write about your experience. How does it feel to be hungry?
— Do you know someone in your community who is either a Holocaust survivor or a veteran of World War II? Using a tape recorder, interview this person. Write your questions in advance. Photograph your subject. Share your report with your classmates.
To those who teach our children and youth, observe National Holocaust Day Sunday in your church, home and school. And never, never let our young people forget the atrocities that happened during the Holocaust. And, pray that it may never happen again.
Carolyn Tomlin is co-author (with Denise George) of “The Secret Holocaust Diaries: The Untold Story of Nonna Bannister,” available in hardcover, paperback, CD and Kindle. A free Kindle download is available from www.Amazon.com through May 2. Tomlin and George are co-owners of “Boot Camp for Christian Writers.” Contact her at [email protected]