by Susan L. Smithers
“I am constantly amazed by man’s inhumanity to man,” wrote Primo Levi. Unfortunately, the same can still be said today.
All we have to do is read today’s headlines to know why the remembrance of those who perished in the Holocaust is more important than ever and that remembrance must be never-ending.
Steven Blaney wrote, “The Holocaust did not begin in the gas chambers—it began with words.”
Unspeakable events and tragedies always begin with words, words that stoke fear, suspicion, bigotry and hatred, words that target, demonize and dehumanize those who are different—“the other.” The Holocaust began with words, but it was fueled by denial, silence and indifference.
We must declare that there is no “other” in the Family of Man, and that we will fight for the rights, dignity and humanity of the members of our family. We, too, will use words, we will raise our voices in protest, we will march, we will hold vigils and we will man the barricades.
As Elie Wiesel said “There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.” He also said, “Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must - at that moment - become the center of the universe.”
This is how we will honor those who suffered and perished in the Holocaust.
Remembrance is only the beginning.
The 6 butterflies represent the 6 million Jews who perished in the Holocaust. They also represent hope, transformation and the ephemeral nature of life.
The following is a quote from THE SPIRIT OF BUTTERFLIES: MYTH, MAGIC, AND ART by Maraleen Manos-Jones:
"Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, a doctor widely known for her work on death and dying, wrote in her book The Wheel of Life, A Memoir of Living and Dying, about her journey to the site of the Maidanek concentration camp in Poland after World War II.
She visited the children’s barracks, where she encountered clothes and little shoes tossed aside, but she also saw something that at first surprised and then amazed her. Carved into the walls with pebbles and fingernails were butterflies, hundreds and hundreds of them. Spellbound by the sight of butterflies drawn on the wall, she couldn’t help but wonder why they were there and what they meant.
Twenty-five years later, after listening to hundreds of terminally ill patients, she finally realized that the prisoners in the camps must have known that they were going to die. 'They knew that soon they would become butterflies.' Once dead, they would be out of that hellish place. Not tortured anymore. Not separated from their families. Not sent to gas chambers. None of this gruesome life mattered anymore.
Soon they would leave their bodies the way a butterfly leaves its cocoon. And I realized that was the message they wanted to leave for future generations. . . .It also provided the imagery that I would use for the rest of my career to explain the process of death and dying.”