On April 12, 1951, Israel’s Knesset proclaimed “Holocaust and Ghetto Revolt Remembrance Day” (Yom Hashoah U’Mered HaGetao) to be the 27th of Nisan on the Hebrew calendar. The name was later simplified to Yom Hashoah.
The date marks the anniversary of the Warsaw ghetto uprising, and is in remembrance of the six million Jews who were murdered, of all those who suffered, of all those who fought and of all those who survived the Nazi horrors.
This year, Yom Hashoah will be tomorrow, April 12.
Tonight, Israel begins its 24 hours of remembrance of the Holocaust. Jewish and non-Jewish people will remember by lighting candles, praying, singing, delivering speeches and poems and, no doubt, by shedding many a tear.
But while the focus is, and rightly so, on the millions who were murdered and on the survivors who have built new lives in the Jewish state, “Much less is ever said about the survivors for whom mental illness is part of the Holocaust’s legacy.”
With the chilling words, “Some patients refuse to shower because it reminds them of the gas chambers. Others hoard meat in pillow cases because they fear going hungry,” my hometown newspaper—and several other publications—direct our attention on this somber occasion to those for whom the Holocaust never ended.
Holocaust survivors such as those at the Shaar Menashe Mental Health Center in northern Israel, where “patients remain frozen in time. Even today, 65 years after the end of World War II, there are sometimes screams of ‘The Nazis are coming!’”
Shaar Menashe is a place where
… most of the patients still won’t speak. They are introverted and unresponsive. They mumble and shake uncontrollably, slump in front of blank TV screens and look aimlessly into the distance while sucking hard on cigarettes.
“These are the forgotten people. These are the ones who have been left behind, the people who have fallen between the cracks,” said Rachel Tiram, the facility’s longtime social worker.
People such as Meir Moskowitz, 81, who “endured pogroms and days inside a cramped cattle car in his native Romania. His body still quivers. During five hours in the company of visitors, he spoke just one word: ‘Germania.’”
And Arieh Bleier, “a gentle, 87-year-old Hungarian with deep, sullen eyes, survived the Mauthausen concentration camp. His parents and brother perished in Auschwitz. When asked about World War II, he looked away and shook his head.”
Or Devora Amiel, “78 and toothless, her speech slurred by a tongue puffed up from medication. She escaped a Polish ghetto, was taken in by a Christian family, and later grew up in an orphanage. She never found out what happened to her family.” “It’s hard to talk about it, very hard,” she said. “After you go through it, it’s hard to tell…You can only scream about it.”
According to the article:
Alexander Grinshpoon, director of Shaar Menashe, said all survivors have some form of post-traumatic stress disorder. But the roughly 80 in his care are men and women who could not overcome their wartime traumas, perhaps because their suffering was so profound, or because they were predisposed to mental illness – or maybe because their minds simply crashed under the weight of their experiences.
As we remember the six million Jews who died more than 60 years ago in the Holocaust, let’s not forget the survivors, especially those who still have terrifying nightmares, who still scream about it—those for whom “the shadow of death camps, crematoria, deportations and gas chambers is never far away.”
To read this tragic story, please click here.
Image: Courtesy Isurvived.org
The author is a retired U.S. Air Force officer and a writer.