Cantor Moshe Kraus, a Holocaust survivor in his nineties, wiped his eyes as he sang “Kel Malei Rachamim” at the National Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony organized by the Canadian Society for Yad Vashem, May 15, at the Canadian War Museum.
Lighting the last of six ceremonial candles of the Yad Vashem menorah, young and old mingled, the lined faces of experience and the fresh beauty of the young from many schools joining together to express hope for the future.
As the number of Holocaust survivors and Jewish war veterans in attendance diminishes, the sixth candle was lit in tribute to the future generations who will carry forth the torch of remembrance.
The other five candles, lit by a host of dignitaries and honoured participants, were for remembering the six million perished in the Shoah; the one-and-a-half million children murdered; the Righteous among the Nations who risked their lives to rescue others; the Holocaust survivors who courageously rebuilt their lives; and the partisans, ghetto fighters and allied resistance.
In his D’var Torah, Rabbi Reuven P. Bulka expressed the paradox that “instead of it being something so far from our memory, those of us who care are learning more and more of its brutality and that will last when the survivors are no longer with us.”
Employment and Social Development and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney told survivors that in future “your voices will be heard and there will be an endless chorus of truth…When wicked men in future say the Holocaust couldn’t be real, their lies will be drowned out by the truth.”
“It is an obligation at events such as this to speak up, to see that future generations are educated,” said Montreal philanthropist Thomas Hecht, a Holocaust survivor. “Holocaust education is an imperative… It is a call to all people to prevent future genocides.”
“We must heed the example of those who stared down evil,” said Opposition Leader Thomas Mulcair, “and stand together in fighting discrimination in all its forms.”
“We must never stop striving to educate others about the Holocaust. I am confident that Ottawa’s new Holocaust monument will help in that mission,” added Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau.
Green Party leader Elizabeth May expressed her gratitude for the work of Fran Sonshine, national chair of the Canadian Society for Yad Vashem and noted that it was 75 years ago that the German transatlantic liner St. Louis was turned away by Cuba, and by other countries including Canada.
“In the business of remembering, we need to be prepared to challenge the comfortable lies,” May said. “We have to face the uncomfortable truths and then we can say never again.”
Also in attendance was Israeli Ambassador Rafael Barak, along with about 80 other dignitaries.
The theme for the ceremony was “Jews ‘On the Edge-1944: Between Annihilation and Liberation.”
What occurred in Auschwitz in the last months of the war was presented with the screening of 1944 images of inmates from Yad Vashem’s “Auschwitz Album.” In a moving accompaniment to the video, students from the Ottawa Jewish Community School sang “Eli, Eli” as it played.