Remembering the Holocaust

EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska -- It has been more than 60 years since the holocaust. To survivors, the Holocaust remains real and ever-present, but for some others, sixty years makes the Holocaust seem part of ancient history. Year-round we try to teach and inform others about the horrors of the Holocaust. We confront the questions; What happened? How did it happen? How could it happen? Could it happen again? We attempt to fight against ignorance with education and against disbelief with proof.

But there is one day in the year when we make a special effort to remember. On this day, we remember those who suffered, those who fought, and those who died. Six million Jews were murdered and many families were completely eliminated.

Jewish history is long and filled with many stories of slavery and freedom, sorrow and joy, persecution and redemption. For Jews, their history, their family, and their relationship with God have shaped their religion and their identity. The Hebrew calendar is filled with varied holidays that incorporate and reiterate the history and tradition of the Jewish faith.

After the horrors of the Holocaust, Jews wanted a day to memorialize this tragedy. But what day? The Holocaust spanned years with suffering and death spread throughout these years of terror. No one day stood out as representative of this destruction.

For two years, the date was debated. Finally, in 1950, compromises and bargaining began. The 27th of Nissan was chosen, which falls beyond Passover but within the time span of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. Orthodox Jews still did not like this date because it was a day of mourning within the traditionally happy month of Nissan. As a final effort to compromise, it was decided that if the 27th of Nissan would affect Shabbat (fall on Friday or Saturday), then it would be moved. If the 27th of Nissan falls on a Friday, Holocaust Remembrance Day is moved to the preceding Thursday. If the 27th of Nissan falls on a Sunday, then Holocaust Remembrance Day is moved to the following Monday.

On April 12, 1951, the Knesset (Israel's parliament) proclaimed Yom Hashoah U'Mered HaGetaot (Holocaust and Ghetto Revolt Remembrance Day) to be the 27th of Nissan. The name later became known as Yom Hashoah Ve Hagevurah (Devastation and Heroism Day) and even later simplified to Yom Hashoah.

This year, Yom Hashoah, or the Day of Remembrance, was April 11, but will be observed at Eielson Saturday.

There will be a small museum set up at the Base Chapel April 16 and 17, where Airmen and families are welcome to come and learn a little about the holocaust. April 17, starting at 1 p.m. there will be a moment of silence for victims and a reading of names. At 2 p.m., there will be a video shown; Berga: Soldiers of Another War, a documentary film revealing Nazi Holocaust atrocities inflicted on 350 American P.O.W.s "classified" as Jewish. For questions about these activities, contact Staff Sgt. Alexander Puma at DSN 377-4114.