Thursday, May 05, 2005

This year the eve of Yom HaShoah ( Holocaust Day ) coincides with the national ceremonial Remembrance of the Dead in Holland. For some years now, during the latter ceremony not only the Dutch victims and heroes of WWII are remembered, but also those who fell in other armed conflicts and during peace missions in which the Dutch army participated. I am not a great fan of annual remembrance ceremonies. It is hard to find a suitable mood for such ceremonies at the right moment. Since much of my research concerns the ( aftermath ) of the Holocaust, I more or less remember 365 days a year, and many times a year I read some story about the war that makes me sad or angry, or that fascinates me. When that happens, I often give our children an extra big hug when they go to sleep at night, or I give them an extra long kiss when I see if they are all right before I go to bed myself. Of course the Second World War was much more than 'only' the Holocaust. Still, for us here WWII ( or in some contexts 'the war', even though Israel has had its share of wars after what remains 'the' war in most European countries ) I wrote an article - in Dutch, it appears two postings before this one - in which I say that all the anti-America protesters who intend to raise their voices against the visit, this weekend, of George W. Bush at the American military cemetery in Margraten, Limburg ( the Netherlands ), should show a minumum of respect to the more than 8,000 soldiers who are buried there. As justified as their protests are, it would be better if they did not take advantage of this opportunity to make their point.
When she and her brother were having their daily bath tonight, our daughter, whose sixth birthday we celebrated today at her kindergarten, said something about Yom HaShoah that was meant to be funny, I don't remember exactly what. We always intended to wait some more before we would explain to her what the Holocaust is ( although for years her teachers in kindergarten and pre-kindergarten have talked about it, I am sure ), but this time I looked at my wife, she nodded to me, and in a few lines I told her who Hitler was, what he wanted to do ( I used the story of the Jews in Egypt, and of Haman, the Persian minister who wanted to kill all the Jews, something which was prevented by Mordechai and Esther, and which we remember each year at Purim; the children know these stories very well, including some gruesome details ), and how that affected some of her own family members. Of course we did not tell her any details, I painted only a very broad picture which would not upset her, but at least she understood that the Shoah is not something funny.

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