Made evident by recent events like the travesty of NBA owner Donald Sterling’s racist remarks, international fighting against members of minority groups, and wide-spread homophopia, hatred bubbles beneath the surface even today. That is how the Holocaust – also known as the Shoah – began.
Although those who lived through World War II are quickly disappearing due to age and infirmity, the witness they bore to the atrocities of the Nazi war machine annually are told at religious institutions around the globe. At a local ceremony called Yom HaShoah, which commemorates the victims of the Holocaust, marks the anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. Its goal is to keep the memory of man’s inhumanity to man alive so, perhaps, man can learn from what happens when one people thinks it is better than any other person or group.
When she was 15 years old, Janine Oberrotman began to witness random killings and other inhumane acts as the Germans invaded her home town of Lvov, Poland. Pogroms were created and inhumane roundups began.
She avoided deportation when her father found her a job in construction, but that job did not secure her safety. She was forced into hiding to avoid capture. Her hiding places included the home of a kind Polish lady, in a villa which was under construction belonging to a German commandant, and in an armoire that contained a secret underground entrance covered under dirt beneath a camouflaged area. She and her mother brought food to her father, but no safe place stayed safe for long. At first, she was sent to the home of a teacher her family knew, who taught her some English among other subjects.
She and her mother were sent to the ghetto, where kind acts by others was all that kept them alive as they arrived with nowhere to live and only two small suitcases between them. Her mother saw an opportunity to get Janine out by making her trail a group of workers being allowed out of the compound. They never saw each other again.
After her narrow escape from the ghetto, Janine lived in a Ukranian village under an assumed name and using documents given to her by kind people who sheltered her. After Janine was turned in by a local woman, she was arrested, interrogated and jailed before she was deported and made a forced laborer. When her area was liberated in 1945, Janine went to Paris, where she lived until moving to the United States in 1953. Although she survived, her parents and nearly all her extended family perished in during this mass extermination.
“Never again” should not just be words spoken in passing, but an ideal that all of humanity should strive to ensure. No one group or person is superior to any other, despite the fact that bullies still exist and come in different forms. As Nia Vardalos recently said during an interview with Steve Cochran on WGN Radio asking her why would speak to a group of another faith, “We all believe in one being, but just in different flavors.”