Yom ha’shoah began on Sunday at sundown, according to the Jewish custom of measuring a day from sunset to sunset. So it ended sundown Monday.


The Hebrew word Shoah refers to the Holocaust and literally means something like “catastrophe.” The name itself does not date to those terrible years during WWII. It’s first known use dates back only to 1967.


“Holocaust” is oddly enough a Latin word, probably the Romanization of a Celtic word meaning a mass sacrifice of living beings by burning.


I studied the Holocaust in school and read about it more than most I suppose, but it means something personal to me. I’ve been to Oswieciem – better known by its German name of Auschwitz.


The reason this town in southwest Poland has a German name is before the war it was ethnic German. There was a Polish army base there with three story brick barracks all surrounded by barbed wire, so when the Nazis took over they really didn’t have to build much. Only the murder machinery.


Polish freedom fighter Jan Karski, who tried to warn the West about the Holocaust, wrote in “The Story of a Secret State” that when Poland was invaded by Germany and Russia in 1939, his reserve army commission was activated and he was ordered to report to the base at Oswieciem. When the army retreated from the the base the locals were taking pot shots at them with hunting rifles.


It’s all still there, a sleepy town in the boonies, with an economy based on a furniture factory at one end of the main street, and the camp at the other. I wonder what it’s like to live there, grow up there.


Everyone has their one memory of visiting Auschwitz. For me it was two faces from a wall of mug shots.


One is a young girl, maybe 14-16, wearing a Polish peasant outfit, kerchief covering blond hair. She’s looking at the camera, afraid but not really comprehending what’s going on.


The other is a girl about the same age, but dressed in prison strips, hair in a buzz cut. She’s looking at the camera, terrified, like she knows exactly what’s going on.


I can still see those faces in front of me. I will see them when I die.

Yom ha’shoah began on Sunday at sundown, according to the Jewish custom of measuring a day from sunset to sunset. So it ended sundown Monday.

The Hebrew word Shoah refers to the Holocaust and literally means something like “catastrophe.” The name itself does not date to those terrible years during WWII. It’s first known use dates back only to 1967.

“Holocaust” is oddly enough a Latin word, probably the Romanization of a Celtic word meaning a mass sacrifice of living beings by burning.

I studied the Holocaust in school and read about it more than most I suppose, but it means something personal to me. I’ve been to Oswieciem – better known by its German name of Auschwitz.

The reason this town in southwest Poland has a German name is before the war it was ethnic German. There was a Polish army base there with three story brick barracks all surrounded by barbed wire, so when the Nazis took over they really didn’t have to build much. Only the murder machinery.

Polish freedom fighter Jan Karski, who tried to warn the West about the Holocaust, wrote in “The Story of a Secret State” that when Poland was invaded by Germany and Russia in 1939, his reserve army commission was activated and he was ordered to report to the base at Oswieciem. When the army retreated from the the base the locals were taking pot shots at them with hunting rifles.

It’s all still there, a sleepy town in the boonies, with an economy based on a furniture factory at one end of the main street, and the camp at the other. I wonder what it’s like to live there, grow up there.

Everyone has their one memory of visiting Auschwitz. For me it was two faces from a wall of mug shots.

One is a young girl, maybe 14-16, wearing a Polish peasant outfit, kerchief covering blond hair. She’s looking at the camera, afraid but not really comprehending what’s going on.

The other is a girl about the same age, but dressed in prison strips, hair in a buzz cut. She’s looking at the camera, terrified, like she knows exactly what’s going on.

I can still see those faces in front of me. I will see them when I die.