As you know, some people deny that some six million Jews died in the Holocaust at the direction of Hitler's Nazi German government and its "Final Solution" operation.
Nonetheless, it doesn't hurt to continue to build the person-by-person record of what happened. Which is one of the things being done by Yad Vashem, the official Holocaust memorial authority in Israel.
The agency announced last week that it now has identified the names of four million of the six million Jews who perished in the Shoah.
Here is what Avner Shalev, chairman of Yad Vashem, said about this:
“In the past decade (2001-2010) we have succeeded in adding about 1.5 million victims' names to the Names Database, increasing by some 60% the information we had. The Germans sought not only to destroy the Jews, but to obliterate any memory of them. One of Yad Vashem's central missions since its foundation, the recovery of each and every victim's name and personal story, has resulted in relentless efforts to restore the names and identities of as many of the six million Jews murdered by the Nazis and their accomplices as possible. We will continue our efforts to recover the unknown names, and by harnessing technology in the service of memory, we are able to share their names with the world.”
All of us should be grateful that this work is proceeding. The loss of memory, of history -- especially this history -- would be unconscionable.
It's one reason I was glad and honored to be able to preserve some of the memories of Holocaust survivors and the non-Jews who helped to save them in my 2009 book, They Were Just People: Stories of Rescue in Poland During the Holocaust, co-authored with Rabbi Jacques Cukierkorn.
Details matter. Facts matter. They stand as a strong defense against the destructive nonsense of Holocaust denial.
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LOOKING FOR THE GOOD
A Hindu leader is praising Pope Benedict XVI for showing compassion for the poor. Excellent. What a difference it would make if people of all faiths looked for examples to praise in traditions different from their own. What do you find most beautiful in a religion that is not your own?
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THE BOOK CORNER
The Isle of Monte Cristo: Finding the Inner Treasure, by S. T. Georgiou, the third of a trilogy that includes The Way of the Dreamcatcher: Spirit Lessons with Robert Lax, and Mystic Street: Meditations on a Spiritual Path. Some years ago, a somewhat lost and dejected spiritual seeker named Steve Georgiou found his way to the famed Greek island of Patmos, where John wrote the last book of the New Testament, the book of Revelation. Georgiou had a chance meeting with the great hermit and thinker Robert Lax (1915-2000) -- someone whom Thomas Merton, perhaps the most famous American monk of the 20th Century, considered much wiser and more spiritual than Merton himself. Lax became a mentor for Georgiou, and the eventual result -- besides Georgiou finding faith again and devoting himself to seminary teaching in the San Francisco Bay Area -- was these three books. You may, of course, want to read them sequentially, starting with Dreamcatcher, which has just been reissued with a new introduction. But, in fact, you can start anywhere and you will be rewarded with insight brought via good writing. This is about the inner journey that finally leads us to see not just what is essential and resident within us but also what we're missing that needs to be supplied by God. The middle book, Mystic Street, focuses on Georgiou's time back at school. This final book gathers together some of the early strands from the first and second book and moves readers up the mountain toward revelation. It's a jouney worth taking, especially with the guidance of someone like Georgiou, who knows what's important and what isn't.
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P.S.: My latest column for The Presbyterian Outlook, "Retrofitting for ministry," now is online. To read it click here.