Will the Little Yellow Candle's Flame Continue?
Please note: The remembrance date is officially held on the date in the piece, but it is also held on other dates in April. This is a story of the ravages of time and memory, one that frightens millions of people of faith and respect.
Every year, in hundreds of thousands of homes in America and places far and beyond, a little yellow candle is lit inside a compact metal container. The candle is usually mailed out by Synagogues, Churches, or organizations committed to remembrance. The meaning of the container and the lighting of the candle is a reminder of what happened, and, sadly, what could have been.
This year, the remembrance began the night of April 10th and continued through the next day. The day is called called Yom HaShoa, translated from Hebrew to English English as “Day of remembrance” of the Holocaust and the Heroism.” The killing of six million Jews before and during World War II was accompanied by the Nazi murders of six million others, including gypsies, Catholics, the disabled, and political enemies.
The ritual of lighting the yellow candle is part of a living nightmare for all people who pray and hope that the truth of the savage, targeted killing of the Jewish people by Adolph Hitler will never be forgotten and will not fade into the history books with merely a mention a hundred years from now.
To fight lapses in memory, many Holocaust museums exist around the world, including the United States Memorial Holocaust Museum in Washington. The very first Holocaust Memorial in America was dedicated in 1964 in Philadelphia. On that site at the beginning of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, The Philadelphia Holocaust Remembrance foundation is expanding the memorial to create a beautiful garden with information and different elements of communication to guarantee the history is noticed appropriately. Nationwide, many Americans know of the fight to preserve the story by iconic film Director and Producer Steven Spielberg, who created the Shoa Foundation to keep the testimony of the survivors alive on film.
Despite all these efforts, the fear among millions that people will forget is justified by the news of a survey that was released on April 12, a day after this year’s candle lighting. The survey was commissioned by the Claims Conference, which represents Jewish interests in Germany. The results, nationwide in America, show major ignorance of the mass murder. Young adults seem to be especially unaware
Some of the most important findings: 11 percent of all participating in the survey didn’t know or were not sure they knew of the Holocaust. Among younger adults that figure was 22 percent. 41% of all participants didn’t know what Auschwitz was. In the younger group, the number was 66 percent. In a shocking finding, 45% of all adults questioned could not name a single concentration camp.
There is some hope.
Despite the gaps in knowledge, only 1% of Americans were Holocaust deniers. 93% of Americans believe that Holocaust studies should be required curriculum in our schools. There is one figure that especially gives optimism. Of all Americans questioned, 58% of Americans believed something like the mass killings could happen again while 82% believe it could happen in the United States. Such awareness is an essential part of Holocaust remembrance.
As memories fade, modern day dictators are playing out their own murders: most notably Basher Assad in Syria, supported by suspected murderer Vladimir Putin in Russia. There is also the current ethnic cleansing in Myanmar, and the racial and religious murders in Serbia and Rwanda in the last part of the twentieth century. Just this past year, Poland’s government has made it a crime to speak or write about Polish complicity in the Holocaust.
The man who commissioned the survey, Greg Schneider, Executive Vice President of the Claims Conference has the real sense of urgency. He told Time Magazine, “One of the things we are most concerned about is, if there’s this lack of knowledge while there are still survivors alive to tell their tell their stories, what will it be like in 20 or 50 years?”
“There is,” he says, “no time to waste.”
That’s why when the little yellow candle comes around every year, we will light it in honor of the lost generation and hope that 100 years from now, our survivors will keep the flame burning.
It is true, you know, that the passing of time is the greatest enemy of the truth.