Tomorrow Israel will commemorate the Holocaust. This isn’t unique to Israel; there are commemorations in the United States, the United Kingdom, and elsewhere.
But in Israel Yom HaShoah (the day of the Holocaust) is inextricably linked with HaGevurah, the heroism, the fantastic bravery of the people who resisted. The people who escaped the Warsaw Ghetto, those who fought with the partisans, those whose acts (large and small) helped people to survive, physically and psychologically, through the war–many of them became the builders of the Land of Israel.
On that note, a little story about Taxman’s grandmother, who was born in Germany:
On Kristallnacht (night of broken glass), the night in late 1938 when the Nazis smashed and burned their way through Jewish homes, shops, and synagogues, she was a young teenager.* As the synagogue down the block from her was looted and burned, she slipped out of her house (very dangerous) and into the street, where she rescued a Torah scroll (even more dangerous) and brought it to her house for safekeeping (there was no “safe” for German Jews–or their property–in 1938). She managed to get both herself and this Torah to safety in United States.
Imagine what she could have done were she five years older.
* I stand corrected by my mother-in-law; she was 16. But she did pick up a small Torah from the middle of a public thoroughfare, wrap it in a sheet, and hide it under her coat. She and her older sister had sponsorship from a cousin to come to the United States, and they did so in late 1939, after the war had begun; her older brother had moved to Palestine in 1933. Her father and stepmother (her mother had died of tuberculosis in 1929) were killed by the Nazis, despite her father’s long-held belief that as an upstanding, army-serving German citizen he would be safe.
The Torah came in her luggage, but of course could have been confiscated at any time that she was within the long reach of Nazi Germany.