Yad Vasham was established by the Israeli government in 1953 to commemorate the Holocaust of World War II. The annihilation of Jews was an absolute and fundamental tenet of Nazism. Six million Jews were murdered during the war, including 1.5 million children. Some 5000 European Jewish communities were destroyed. Between June and November of 1944, near the end of the war, 20,000 Jews a day were put to death at Auschwitz alone.
Yad Vasham is a 45-acre preserve with museums, libraries, and archives. The statue in the photo is called "The Silent Cry." The Children's Memorial is especially moving. It is underground. As you enter, you see photos of children killed in the Holocaust. A recorded voice relays the name, age and hometown of child after child after child after child. You circle down to a solemn place of darkness with candles. Mirrors reflect and multiply the candlelight into hundreds of glittering sparkles.
I was especially moved by the story of one righteous gentile, Aristides de Sousa Mendes. He was born a nobleman and became Portuguese Consul General to Bordeaux, France. During World War II, he issued tens of thousands of unauthorized visas and urged his subordinates to do the same. He wrote:
Even if I am discharged I can only act as a Christian, as my conscience tells me. If I am disobeying orders, I would rather be with God against men, than with man against God.
When his unauthorized activity was discovered by the authorities, he was removed bodily from his post, stripped of his rank and pension, barred from practicing law and ostracized by his former friends. He died destitute in 1954. I pray that I will have his strength of conviction to do what is right if ever I am put to the test.
Sixteen thousand "Righteous among the Nations" have been recognized, including Oskar Schindler, whose story was told in the movie Schindler's List. Only 18 of them were diplomats. The rescue of significant numbers of intended Jewish victims was not possible outside two brief windows of opportunity, at the beginning and near the end of the war.
Go on to read about the Holy Land Hotel
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