Lest we forget

Perhaps because India was not directly affected, holocaust does not impact the average Indian all that much. Personally speaking it was books and movies that showed me its horrors. Many of them have starkly portrayed this ghastly period in history that murdered millions. Holocaust related reports continue to appear in press and are constant reminders of what one man’s hate can do to the entire world.

A recent book by noted Kannada writer Nemichandra has a fictitious Jewish scientist fleeing Nazi Germany and seeking sanctuary in Bangalore. The character’s daughter grows up to marry a Hindu Indian and returns to Israel to find her roots. The book thus established an Indian connection which I had hitherto not felt.

When a niece went to Germany for studies, I plied her with questions. “Oh, they are very conscious of their dark history, they have banned all Nazi symbols” she told me and through the pictures of concentration camps that she posted on the web, I saw the ovens used for burning the Jews and the clock that stands still at the time the camp was liberated by American troops.

With these fresh in mind, when I made friends with a visiting 76-year-old Belgian, I asked her about her country’s connection to holocaust. “Holocaust was horrible. Many Jews fled Poland to seek sanctuary in our country and Belgians adopted many Jewish babies and even baptised them just to save their lives. We recently had a reunion of these Jewish children, who as adults have settled all over the world, with their Belgian families. People say holocaust was something that happened so long ago, we must move on. But it is not easy for the Jews” Joanna continued with her eyes brimming.

“I was a young girl during the war and with no radio or news paper in our village I had no idea about the atrocities. Our family had gone to visit a church and when we sat down to eat our meal we heard sounds of beating and people screaming. We were told by our hosts that it was the Jews being beaten on their way to concentration camps. The sound still haunts me. The incident is particularly stark because on the way back, the horse drawn carriage that my father was riding accidentally brushed against a German officer’s carriage. My father was taken away by the police and was beaten black and blue even though the fault was the drunken officer’s. For a long time after the incident the sight of uniform sent shivers down my spine. If this can trouble me, imagine the pain of Jews who lost families”

The pain is indeed unimaginable and hence the world’s plea of “Never Again”.

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