THE SIGNIFICANCE OF YOM HASHOAH… NOW AND IN 2020


by Pauline Rockman
President of Descendants of the Shoah,
Executive Member of the Holocaust Centre and
Australian Coordinator of the Shoah Visual History Foundation

In the period that followed the Shoah, just after World War II – the survivors were motivated by a desire and need to bear witness for those who had perished, and they tried to speak. But people could not listen; perhaps the enormity of what had occurred was beyond anyone's comprehension. The survivors were told to get on with life, to begin again. As the years passed - as a distance emerged from the events - as the next generation grew up the last decades have witnessed an incredible outpouring - the emergence of a trend to break that silence.

There was a movement from debilitating silence, to an explosion of conversation that still continues to this day. There is hardly a week goes by without some mention of the Shoah in the media, of a new book or of a film. The Shoah and its representation has gone full circle and to great extremes.

It is expressed in television, films and books, novels, plays and documentaries in oral history collections in museum and exhibitions and in commemoration ceremonies. It has emerged initially from the historians, from the survivors to the second and third generation and now to the whole world.

There are those who object to what is alleged to be a trivialization of the Shoah. Others object to what they perceive as attempts by the Jewish Establishment to transform the Auschwitz experience into a religion. The conversation continues.

Let the dialogue continue in all its manifestations...between the generations; from the survivors to their children and the children's children; via artists, writers and so on. Let it be expressed in art and read in books and viewed in film, the more it is expressed the more it will be discussed, taught in our institutions and... REMEMBERED.

The commemoration of Yom Hashoah in Melbourne is one such response. One of the many bonuses of my involvement with Shoah commemoration and education is working with a group of people to prepare for Yom Hashoah. Here survivors, child survivors, second and third generation work together, on a community event that has been taking place for many years. Our task is how can we continue the good work that has been done in the past but at the same time make it meaningful to the next generations.

It is a monumental task. It includes respecting the memory of the survivors, treating them with the dignity that they truly deserve. It also pertains to a meaningful response by and for the future generations, the Descendants of the Shoah; many who will not have the privilege of meeting the survivors and hearing from them directly. It must evoke the presence of those who are absent. Regardless of what is created the voice of survivors will surely be heard.

The constituencies are many, each with deep emotions, at different stages of comprehension and coming to terms with the enormity of it all. And our response to it in the future may indeed provide much needed meaning for those who participate in the conversation.

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