Subversive memory

By Simon Barrow
January 27, 2010

Rabbi Dr Jonathan Sacks offered a moving, reflective and hopeful 'Thought for the Day' on BBC Radio 4 this morning, highlighting the courage and resistance of those trapped in the Warsaw ghetto under the Nazis - where 100,000 Jews died of starvation and disease and another 270,000 were taken in cattle trucks to Treblinka and other camps to be gassed and burned.

Jewish historian Emanuel Ringelblum, Sacks explained,

"...realised that the Nazis were unlike any previous group bent on conquest. All others had preserved a record of their victories for posterity. But the Germans were intent on obliterating or falsifying every trace of their mass exterminations, of Roma, Sinti, homosexuals, the mentally and physically disabled, and the Jews. Ringelblum understood that they were preparing a systematic denial of the Holocaust at the very time it was taking place.

So, in the ghetto, he brought together a group of academics, teachers, journalists, religious leaders, artists and the young to gather testimonies from people in the ghetto, so that the world would one day know what happened. Unbelievably they gathered 35,000 documents, stories, letters, poems and records. They hid them in tin boxes and milk churns where they lay for years until the handful of survivors led the way to their location.

What an astonishing act of faith: that evil would ultimately be defeated, that the documents would be found and not destroyed, and that truth would win out in the end. Faith in God after the Holocaust may be hard; but faith in humanity is harder still, knowing the evil people to do one another, and the hate that lies dormant but never dead in the human heart.

Read the full text here.

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