JEWS AND RWANDANS share a common understanding. We have both felt the pain of a hole burnt into our hearts. The month of April, at this time, is sacred to both Jews and Rwandans.
Next week the Jewish community will pause to remember the brutal murder of six million Jewish men, women and children by the Nazi Hordes. In Rwanda, today you pause to remember the murder of more than a million men, women and children brutalised, raped, murdered during 100 days of the Genocide against the Tutsi.
To the survivors amongst us today, I say, I understand. And to the children of those survivors I say I am ONE with you. My father, Max, was the sole Jewish survivor of his small village in Poland. Murdered in the gas chambers of Treblinka were his mother, his father, his seven brothers and sisters, cousins, aunts and uncles. His wife and my two half-brothers – Yitzhak and Shalom – were also murdered in the gas chamber.
So you see my dear friends, you and us are one. It is too late for the murdered Jews of Europe and your brothers, sisters, family and friends, the annihilated Tutsis of Rwanda.
The world had its opportunity to save them and did too little, too late. The deeds of those who tried protected our martyrs from persecution; the righteous among the nations, people like Gen Roméo Dallaire and Raul Wallenberg represent a flickering spark of humanity in a world that had gone dark. They offer a sharp rebuke to those who say “we had no choice,” or “we did not know,” or “it was not our business.”
No words can bring meaning or sense to the Genocide against the Tutsi or the Shoah (the Hebrew term for the Holocaust), but commemoration can bring hope to those who survived and those who remember. And in so doing, we can at least show the victims of the genocidal madness that their deaths had some effect on us, caused us to reflect, reconsider and even hope.
We must honour those who were lost with forthright action and a commitment to ensure that never again will the demons of the human spirit gain ascendancy – never again will we turn a blind eye to the torment of others.
Many survivors, like my dear father, and so many here today found a haven in Canada. They were and are the true heroes of this sad epoch in history. Through their courage, they found the strength to start over again, to build new families and to leave a legacy of hope, love and determination for their children and their descendants to follow.
In the end, we must show a fidelity to history and memory. We do this for ourselves and for those whose echoes were so murderously silenced – for the Yitzhaks and Shaloms -whose still, small voices call out from the grave to all of us to remember.
Today, together we join our memories of pain as a means by which to tell the world YET AGAIN-NEVER AGAIN!
Bernie Farber, Toronto,