MUNSTER | The voices of children, raised in song and in the spoken word, filled Congregation Beth Israel Sunday as five Jewish congregations from Indiana and Illinois and the Jewish Federation of Northwest Indiana joined to remember those who perished in the Holocaust.
Of the 6 million Jews who were murdered between 1939 and 1945 by the Nazis and their collaborators, 1.5 million were children and teenagers. The Community Yom Hoshua (Holocaust Memorial Day) Commemoration focused on the poems, songs and memoirs left behind by those youngsters, said Michael Steinberg, president of the Jewish Federation of Northwest Indiana.
“There were more diaries than Anne Frank’s,” said Nancy Friedman, youth choir director from the United Religious School in Homewood.
A youth choir member said the service helped him remember the children of the Holocaust.
“It makes me think that the more we remember it, the less likely it will happen again,” said Tyler Burnett, 12, of B’nai Yehuda Beth Sholom in Homewood.
The songs sung during the memorial service were written by Czech Jewish children in the Terezin or Theresienstadt Concentration Camp in Czechoslovakia, where 15,000 youngsters were among the 97,287 killed.
“Holocaust is a word of Greek origin, meaning ‘sacrifice by fire,’” said Rabbi Mordechai Levin of Congregation Beth Israel.
Levin said there were several reasons why “Shoah” or “destruction” must be remembered.
“We must remember for the sake of our children, because they and the world must learn some lessons,” he said.
Led by Mor Rintzler, an emissary from Israel, children from Munster and surrounding communities also read poems and passages from diaries of Jewish children. The various entries were written before and after the children were rounded up in their communities and put into concentration camps.
“March 19, 1944. Dear diary, you’re the luckiest one in the world, because you cannot feel, you cannot know what a terrible thing has happened to us. The Germans have come!” wrote Eva Heyman, 13.
On May 10, 1944, Eva Heyman wrote in her diary after she was sent to a concentration camp, “Dear diary, we’re here five days, but, word of honor, it seems like five years. The most awful thing of all is that the punishment for everything is death.”
“There is no difference between things; no standing in the corner; no spankings, no taking away food, no writing down the declension of irregular verbs one hundred times the way it used to be in school,” she wrote.
“Not at all: the lightest and heaviest punishment – death.”