Thursday marked the international remembrance of the Holocaust, remembering and learning from the horror of the Holocaust, set on the day when Auschwitz was liberated, January 27. The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews is one group that is active in promoting Christian-Jewish understanding, and helping in very practical ways both Holocaust survivors and needy Jews around the world and in Israel. Yael Eckstein of IFCJ wrote a moving account of her visit on January 27 to Ukraine and the once thriving Jewish villages of that region. She wrote:
From the time I was a child I learned about the Holocaust in school. My class in Chicago was shown pictures of the skeletal bodies that Allied forces found when they liberated the concentration camps in World War II. We heard stories of righteous gentiles who saved Jewish lives at great risk to their own, and once in a while we would have a Holocaust survivor come and tell his story to the class. But growing up in America, the events that happened in Germany decades ago seemed far away, and the Holocaust, though critically important to understand, seemed like just a memory.
It is very different in Ukraine. There, I stood on mass Jewish graves marked with plaques of remembrance telling of the horrors that took place on the sites less than 70 years ago. I traveled to run-down towns with little or no Jewish population – towns that were completely Jewish before the Holocaust. It broke my heart to visit the few Jews who remained in this region, who spoke about being abandoned by their government and having no community left to turn to for help. They live without electricity, running water, and sometimes even food.