Baltimore, MD - May 27, 2024  - Today is Memorial Day.  It is the day we in the United States of America honor and commemorate those in the Armed Forces who died while protecting our country.

For me personally, it is a different kind of memorial day.  Today is Yud Tes Iyar and  the 79th anniversary of my father’s, a”h, liberation from the Woebbelin concentration camp by the 82nd Airborne Division. Many people commemorate Yom Hashoa in May , or the International Holocaust Remembrance Day in January.  Today is the day I choose to remember.  Today is the day I acknowledge the Gehinom that my father endured and with great nisim survived.  Today is the day I proudly proclaim euphemistically,   “Baruch Hashem She'Asa Li Nes.” It is a powerful day and awesome reminder of the greatness and goodness of the Ribono Shel Olam.

My father was 15 years old when he was taken to Auschwitz along with his mother, my namesake, and his  sisters and their children.  Bobba Yehudis’ s last words to her son were “never forget you are a Jew and where you come from.”  He never saw her again, nor his sisters, after whom my daughter is named, Hy”d..

By some miracle, my father who was quite short, was told by a malach to stand on his tippy toes, which saved his life.  He  was sent to the right. His mother and sisters and children were sent to the left.   He came face to face with  Mengele, the devil of Auschwitz, twice.  My father was moser nefesh to put on Tefillin by trading the meager life sustaining pieces of bread, and he was makpid on Mayim Acharonim, with water that was a precious commodity.

Yes, there is much to remember and much to be grateful for on this Memorial Day.  I will never know who the hero was who saved my father and so many others from this death camp that was  forgotten by all.  Today is the day I salute the 82nd Airborne Division of the Armed Forces.

As per the Holocuast Encylopedia from the United States Holocaust Museum:

”The Wöbbelin camp, near the city of Ludwigslust, was a subcamp of the Neuengamme concentration camp. The SS had established Wöbbelin in early February 1945 to house concentration camp prisoners whom the SS had evacuated from other camps to prevent their liberation by the Allies. At its height, Wöbbelin held some 5,000 inmates, many of whom were suffering from starvation and disease.

On May 2, 1945, the 8th Infantry Division and the 82nd Airborne Division encountered Wöbbelin. Living conditions in the camp when the US 8th Infantry and the 82nd Airborne arrived were deplorable. There was little food or water, and some prisoners had resorted to cannibalism. When the units arrived there, they found about 1,000 inmates dead in the camp. In the aftermath, the US Army ordered the townspeople in Ludwigslust to visit the camp and bury the dead.”

This day always falls out after Lag B’Omer, which I don’t think is coincidental. Lag B’Omer is the day that represents not just the beauty of Torah, but the incredible concept and reality of hope and rebuilding.  Rabbi Akiva lived it.  Rabi Shimon personified it through his legacy of the Sisrei HaTorah.  Our dear precious and very few remaining Holocaust survivors, may they live and be well, endured this precept.  It is the mesorah of our forefathers, starting all the way back from Avraham Avinu who was thrown into the Kivshan HaEish and believed in the Oneness of Hashem.   It is the same story as now.  We are a Nation that has been burned throughout the centuries and have survived. We have built and rebuilt and thrive!  We do not need to succumb to the terror of those who seek to destroy us.   We are Am  Yisroel Chai.  And to all those who dare think they can annihilate us, I say,

 Netzach Yisroel Lo Yishaker. 

This is what I remember on Memorial Day.

L’Zecher Nishmas Yaakov Mordechai Ben Yitzchok Tzvi