2020 DOR Message From Sally Levine

I hope this message finds you and your loved ones well during these most challenging times. We have observed our holidays without the presence of our friends and families. Our offices are closed, our speakers and volunteers are safe at home, and our exhibitions, both on site and traveling, are void of visitors. This week marks our National Days of Remembrance and our Georgia Capitol ceremony cancelled.

On this, the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps and killing centers, we virtually remember the survivors, liberators and rescuers of the Holocaust.

Rabbi Eli Bohnen was one of the first Jewish military chaplains to enter the Dachau concentration camp, arriving on April 30, 1945, the day following liberation. Rabbi Bohnen was with the 42nd Rainbow Division. On May 1, 1945, he wrote the following in a letter to his wife, Eleanor:

Our division had just taken Dachau. It is difficult to describe the emotions I felt as we approached the Camp in our jeep. …A guard directed us to a Colonel who might give us a pass. “State your purpose in wanting to enter the Camp, Chaplain.”

I blurted out the first words which came to mind – the words of Joseph in the Bible, “I seek my brothers.”

…Nothing that I can hope to put in words could adequately describe the sights. Sometimes, the human mind refuses to believe what the eyes see. All those stories of Nazi horrors are underestimated rather than exaggerated.…  We had been a fighting Division. We had seen death at close range every day for months. But this was different.

During these unprecedented times, we still have the obligation and responsibility to remember and honor the victims, survivors and liberators of the Holocaust, and to confront the challenges still before us. On this anniversary, with the last eyewitnesses in their twilight years, the responsibility to witness falls to us. Elie Wiesel said, “To hear a witness, is to become a witness, oneself.” 

We who have had the privilege of hearing directly from survivors and liberators must now ensure that future generations learn of this watershed moment in human history. Our responsibility assumes an increased urgency as Holocaust denial and distortion rise around the world. These powerful stories on our website enable us to recall the past, learn from the witnesses, remember, and resolve to make change…