Essays & Stories on the Holocaust

Essays and stories

Provocative essays and moving stories about the Holocaust, one of the darkest eras in Jewish history.

Teaching the Shoah
Is the goal of such an enormous effort simply to prevent bullying and discrimination against those who one may consider different?
The Holocaust Torah and the Stories It Tells...
There were lots of things I knew about Mr. Friedman, and many I didn’t. One fact I thought I understood was that he’s always been a man of ordinary means. So when I first heard about the Holocaust Torah, I thought I’d misunderstood.
Shards of Memories
As he walked through the long grass, something shiny caught his eye. He bent down and picked up a fragment of china. The most startling thing about the shard was the swastika which formed part of the design.
The Ability to Question
When the world made no sense, these Jews still cared to know what they should do or not do. When the world ignored G-d and His commandments, they determined that they would not...
The Rebbe on the Holocaust
What the Rebbe Said (and Didn't Say) About the Holocaust
Is G-d responsible? How can His actions (or inaction) be defended? Should they be defended?
Responsa From the Holocaust
The Germans often remarked to the Jews, “Why don't you commit suicide . . . ?”
How the Science of Racism Led to the Holocaust
The war against the divine image in man
Can the world survive on ethics devised by human reason? Well, we tried. It’s called the 20th century.
Was the Holocaust a Punishment?
Why can we say that biblical tragedies were punishments, yet contemporary ones are “the mysterious way of G-d”? Have today’s rabbis changed their perception of G-d to fit what’s politically correct?
Is the Holocaust Explicable?
G-d created the rules of nature and logic. Could He not have created a world in which peace, harmony and light can be fully appreciated even when not preceded by pain and suffering?
"Take these and run to Umschlagplatz. Run! Tell the kapos that your daughter is among the captured. This is an unwritten law among us -- no snatching of policemen's children"
Ani Ma'amin
Reb Azriel David opened his eyes to the sight of the singing train. In a choked voice, he cried: "I will give half of my portion in the World to Come to whoever can take my song to the Modzitzer Rebbe!"
Two Candles for Sammy
I first heard of Sammy Rosenbaum in 1965, when a Mrs. Rawicz from Rabka came into my office in Vienna to testify at a War Crimes trial
The Other Side of the Prayerbook
At first, I was awed by his courage. But the next day I realized, to my horror, that this man was “renting out” the siddur to people in exchange for bread . . .
Holy Day
Slowly the shelter came to life. My mother got up and prepared breakfast—a few crackers with some jam we still had left. But neither my two sisters nor my mother touched the food . . .
All She Remembered Was Her Name
“Listen to me, Mrs. Rosenberg,” her heavy face was flushed with excitement. “Let me take her. Why should she die, the innocent babe? I will care for her as if she was my own. I never had children, you know. Give her to me . . .”
The soldier stared at the boy, fighting back tears. "Over these four terrible years, this is the first live Jewish child I have seen..."
The Blanket
Advice from Rabbi Nosson Tzvi Finkel
We were all looking away; we had not known that he was severely afflicted with Parkinson's disease. Then we heard this big bang on the table: "Gentlemen, look at me, and look at me right now. Who can tell me what the lesson of the Holocaust is?"
A Rebbe's Confession
The year was 1945, just after the war. The place: a refugee camp somewhere in Germany. Jews just out of concentration camps had gathered in a barracks-turned-Synagogue for the Yom Kippur prayers
The Nazi Accomplice in the Circumcision
The woman seemed oblivious to my words. "A knife," she repeated. "I must have a knife. Now. Before it is too late"
It Should Again See Light
My best friend was a girl of my age named Jeanette. One morning when I came to play, I saw her family being forced at gunpoint into a truck. I ran home and told my mother. “Don’t worry,” she said, “Jeanette will be back soon . . .”
The Survivor's Prayer
Over this one thing
I implore You:
That my cup of gratitude
With a tear is laced
For the Sake of Tefillin
How tefillin saved a person's life again and again -- during the Holocaust and in its immediate aftermath.
One Child, Remembered
Crystallizing slowly over time in the old man’s soul was the singular obligation of telling the story of that child’s last moments.
Angels of Light
Auschwitz showed us that just as man can sink as low as the basest animal, so can he rise to the level of angels
A Righteous Tree
This tree trunk stood in the backyard of Jana Sudova, a Czech Righteous Among the Nations, who in early 1945 hid four Jewish escapees of the death marches...
Visit From a Holy Man
On those rare occasions when we could coax my mother to speak about her war experiences, she would always begin with a wistful, nostalgic depiction of her very typical, very normal childhood. "The world was different when I was little," she would croon.
Goodness in Auschwitz
When one enters this place, through the still intact train tracks under that tower-like structure, one can simply not see how long and far it goes, for it is so incredibly massive. And all this for what?
Raoul Wallenberg
Remembering a Hero
Using every means at his disposal, the 32-year-old succeeded in rescuing over 100,000 Jews within a six-month period. While Oskar Schindler is a household name, due largely to the acclaimed film “Schindler’s List,” Wallenberg—who saved many more people—is virtually unknown. And that’s a tragedy . . .
Why No Designated Time to Mourn the Holocaust?
I understand that in the seven weeks between the Jewish holidays of Passover and Shavuot we observe a period of mourning for the death of over 20,000 sages who died during this period. But for the 6 million Jews brutally murdered in the Holocaust we have only one day dedicated to mourning.
On Line to the Auschwitz Gas Chamber
In search of my grandfather
My grandfather, Dovid Henoch Zaklikowski, or “Reb Henoch” as he was affectionately dubbed, was known in the community for his kind smile and generous heart. This is what I heard from everyone I asked about my namesake, my grandfather.
Honor a Holocaust Victim by Tattooing Her Number?
My teenage daughter would like to honor my mother by getting a tattoo of her Auschwitz number. We are quite divided on this issue. Can you please help?
From Auschwitz to Israel, the Saga of a Long-Lost Mini-Torah
How a journalist made a priceless personal discovery
Chanukah 1944 in Buchenwald
How a brave group of Jews outsmarted their S.S. captors
We felt that a little Hanukkah light would warm our starving souls and inspire us with hope, faith, and courage
The American Soldier Who Stood Up to the Nazis—and Won!
The incredible, true story of Roddie Edmonds
Remember Me Forever
I look at these pictures again and again. Some are already discolored, some withered with age. The victims are mainly in their early 20's.
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