In 1995, the world and the Jewish people mark the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II. The moment of victory lingers in our historical consciousness as a memory that combines joy and grief: joy at the end of the cruelest war in the history of mankind and grief at the loss of one-third of our people.
Victory day came very late for the Jewish people. Great communities that had produced men and women of renown in all spheres of creative endeavor had been wiped off the face of the earth. The terror and the suffering defy description. It was then that the survivors – the remnants of European Jewry, 1,200,000 broken men and women, uprooted from their homes and their former lives undertook the great effort of rehabilitating themselves.
On this 50th anniversary of the liberation, the Museum of the Jewish Diaspora, the Ghetto Fighters’ House, and Yad Vashem have collaborated in preparing a museum kit (study and enrichment kit) on “Ret urn to Life – The Holocaust Survivors: From Liberation to Rehabilitation.” The kit consists of a mobile exhibit illustrating the experiences of the survivors of labor and death camps, from liberation day until they began to rebuild their lives.
This significant and little-explored historical episode occurred between two major events in the past few generations: the Holocaust and the establishment of the State of Israel. The museum kit is intended to illustrate how, their horrific experiences notwithstanding, the Holocaust survivors were fiercely motivated to rebuild their personal and national lives. The main manifestations of this drive include the establishment of schools for children and vocational training centers for adults, the founding of aliya kibbutzim, and a high birth rate. The devastation and the ashes gave rise to yearnings for a home from which they would never again be forced to flee. Palestine and the struggle to settle there became a focal issue for the survivors.
The photographs in the kit commemorate dramatic moments during the liberation: the first encounter with the Palestinian Jewish volunteers in the British Army, the return to Poland, the pogrom in Kielce, the bricha (escape from Europe) movement, the DP camps, new homes overseas, clandestine aliya (Jewish immigration to Palestine), deportation of captured immigrants to Cyprus, and the aliya.
The visual material is based on an exhibition held at the Diaspora Museum in 1985 in conjunction with the Ghetto Fighters’ House, Kibbutz Lohamei Haghetaot, and the Shaul Avigur InterUniversity Project for the Study of Illegal Immigration Networks. The initiative for the exhibition was taken by Professor Anita Shapira; Yeshayahu Weinberg, the first director of the Diaspora Museum, guided it along its way.This booklet, which accompanies the posters described below, provides suggestions for discussions along with excerpts of eyewitness testimony that illustrate the dilemmas and problems that the survivors faced.
Many events in the world have been captured in history books but amongst the ones that have stuck to the memory of humankind is the holocaust. The reason for this is because of the huge number of casualties and questions as to what was the real motive behind the need to annihilate a whole community. Holocaust is a controlled, state financed torture and killing of roughly six million Jews by the Nazi government led by Adolf Hitler. Apart from the Jews, other groups considered inferior or anti-establishment such as Poles, Romans and gypsies were killed. There were several reasons for these grisly murders, inhuman detention and subjections of the victims to forced labor while starving.
One of the reasons for this grisly episode was an attempt by German authorities to rid itself of peoples from inferior races. Some races such as the Gypsies and Jews were considered as inferior by German authorities. The fear was that the German people considered superior risked losing their superiority if they came into contact and probably intermarry with these groups deemed inferior.
The other reason for the holocaust was the anti-Semitism views. Anti-Semitism is directly connected to the holocaust and that up to this day the Jews are afraid of a repeat of the same to the extent that they have put in place measures to protect themselves in case of any eventuality. Indeed it is as a result of this racial discrimination that this murderous episode took off resulting in the killings of many Jews.
With the intention of exterminating the Jews and other ‘inferior’ communities, the Nazi sent them to concentration camps where they were subjected to terrible conditions. In some instances, the prisoners in the camps were used as Guinea pigs for medical experiments. Without concern for the welfare of their human subjects, the German physicians carried out nasty experiments on them.
As if all this was not enough, gas chambers were built at concentration camps such as Auschwitz. Prisoners here were forced into those chambers and gassed to death through use of carbon monoxide or cyanide gas produced from Zyklon B pellets. Consequently thousands of people died and they were buried in mass graves without any form of ceremony befitting a human being.
However, there are some Jews and people from other groups who made it out alive and told their story. It is from their witness accounts that the world has gotten to know of what really took place in Germany and the concentration camps.
In conclusion, the holocaust is one of the memorable events in the history of man and it is important to know some of its causes and how it was carried out. This is so as to prevent such an incident occurring and placing value in the lives of all human beings as we are all equal and with equal rights.