Tomorrow I will arrive in Radom for the start of the events organized to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the liquidation of the Radom ghetto. What will it feel like when, along with other Jewish descendants and Christian residents of Radom, we gather to honor the memory of a Jewish community decimated by the Nazis? Will my legs fail me as I stand before the wall where my grandfather Ruwin was shot? Will I feel the trembling of my grandmother Gitla and great-grandmother Golda as they boarded the train to Treblinka?
When we think or speak of the victims of the Holocaust, we most often consider them as a group rather than distinct individuals having their own lives, emotions, experiences. Yet each child, woman and man was unique. My grandfather, who bought and sold leather goods, and along with my grandmother operated a concession stand during the summers in the Polish traveling circus, had their own stories to tell. Will I hear them cry out as I recite their names in the Synagogue Square? Ruwin, Gitla, Roiza, Mortcha, Bilah, Malka, Mania, Lazer, Yankel, Heniek, Frania, Yosel, Leon, Moishe, Avram. One by one their lives were obliterated, their separate and distinct existences vanquished.
How can I pay proper tribute to my ancestors when I never got the chance to meet them? I can mourn their loss, but what images will come to mind when no photographs of my grandmother survived, and the picture I have of my grandfather comes from a computer image of his ghetto identification card recently uncovered? Are these fragments sufficient to do justice to their blessed memories? And what about their own mourning? Robbed of sharing in their children’s milestones and the love of grandchildren, their futures were cut short.
We – the descendants – represent the continuation of their lives. We embody them wherever we are, at any given moment. We are the proof of their existence. We reflect their light. This is how we honor their memory. One by one.