Yom HaShoah or the national Holocaust Remembrance Day in Israel is celebrated as a commemoration of the six million Jews and others who perished during the Holocaust.This year it will falls on Sunday, 23rd April.
The word ‘Holocaust’ originally meant the animal sacrifice offered to the Gods in burnt form but during the 1950s, it acquired a very specialised meaning of the genocide of the Jews under the Nazi rule. This mass extinction of Jews was initiated by Hitler’s belief in the superiority of the Aryan races. The Nazis were of the belief that their race, the Aryan race was superior and that all the other races had to be exterminated using different methods.
The Holocaust began in 1933 when Hitler came to power and ended only in 1945 with the defeat of Germany by the allied forces in the Second World War. Though the extermination of the Jews was happening at a huge scale, the other countries of the world did not come to know about the concentration camps until it was too late.
The Nazis wanted to keep the fate of the Jews a secret and they destroyed all evidence pertaining to the mass killings such as the crematoria, gas chambers and people. But the truth is that the existence of concentration camps to annihilate the Jews was something hard for the allied powers to believe in.
When survivors who escaped described the Holocaust based on their experiences, most of listeners were full of disbelief at the cruelty of the Nazi soldiers. Many survivors went through this experience and were crestfallen when nobody wanted to believe them.
The Jews were subjected to unnameable acts of torture and many of the survivors are of the opinion that this enormity of their trauma made their memories and testimonies incoherent and unbelievable. Even sharing of these testimonials was a difficult act for many of the survivors.
The horrors of this historical event have been portrayed in historical documents, survivor testimonies and memoirs. But the Holocaust was a not single event but an annihilation process that had many locations across Europe and millions of victims who were tortured and killed.
One common thread that runs through survivor testimonies and memoirs of the Holocaust is the hunger that the Jews suffered in the ghettoes and in the concentration camps. They were given soups that were more like vegetables in hot water. The physically weak, the old and children were immediately sent to the gas chambers.