My daughter and I talked about the Holocaust tonight after dinner.
“Do you know what Shoah means?” I asked.
“Disaster. Catastrophe,” she said. They’re learning about it in school—as most Jewish kids in Israel do. We came to Israel when she was 2, and she’s heard the siren that goes off on Holocaust Remembrance Day throughout the land every year since then—that terrible, horrible sound of too many screams mixed down into one keening wail. She stood even at 2, her thumb in her mouth, and her stuffed unicorn dangling at her side.
But now she’s learning words for it—the Holocaust—and we talk about it, about the mommies and daddies and grandmas and grandpas and little kids—so many little kids—who were just rounded up and stuffed onto trains and driven through metal gates. “Work makes you free,” the greatest lie ever wrought in iron.
“Did everyone die?” she asked.
“No, many survived…”
“Where did they go?”
“Some tried to go home—but there was no home to go back to. Most went to America, and many others came to help build Israel.”
“Did they live happily ever after?” she asked.
“Some did, but others didn’t. They saw too many terrible things—they were too sad and angry and tired.”
“Why didn’t anyone help them?”
“That’s a good question. And there’s really no good answer.”
“Are there any people still alive?”
“Yes, baby. Some are. Many of the kids who survived are now very old.”
“Are they OK?”
“Some are, but a lot of them aren’t. Many of them are poor and they don’t have enough food, or heat in the winter.”
“Why don’t people help them? Why don’t people give them 20 shekels or even 50 shekels? Bibi the Prime Minister could give them money, right? Aren’t we supposed to help each other?”
“We are supposed to help each other. But most people don’t.”
“That’s so bad,” my daughter said, her eyes glistening. “That’s also a disaster. A catastrophe. We should think about that when the siren wails.”