Story by Ceren Maeir, Restoring Family Links Intern, Washington, DC
Today, January 27th 2015, marks the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. How do we commemorate such an atrocity? How do we honor the memories of the millions of innocent Jews that perished in Auschwitz? How do we, as humanitarians who have dedicated our every day’s work to the service of those less fortunate, ensure that we never forget, that it never happens again? Thousands of the victims that were murdered in the Holocaust do not have any family members to remember them and honor their legacy. It is upon us to better the world in their honor.
On days like today, I am reminded of how truly blessed I am. When I was twelve years old, a few months before my formal Bat Mitzvah ceremony, my parents took my brother, who was also about to become a Bar Mitzvah, and me to Israel in celebration of the milestone. On our trip we went to Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust Museum, for a tour conducted by the Yad Vashem Twinning Program. The Yad Vashem Twinning Program matches kids of Bar/Bat Mitzvah age with children who perished in the Holocaust at the same age and share a similar last name. I was matched with Ruth Meyer, a young girl born in Siegen, Germany who escaped to Amsterdam with her family, but was eventually taken to Auschwitz where she, and her family, would live their last days.
After receiving the certificate I noticed that on the back was contact information for Ruth’s distant cousin who’s parents survived Auschwitz. The address was Northbrook, Illinois, a neighboring suburb of my hometown. After returning home from Israel, my mother reached out to Ruth’s cousin in Northbrook and we set up a time to get together. It was on an ordinary Sunday morning that my mother and I met Ruth’s cousin and had the privilege to learn more about Ruth and her family’s story. During this meeting I learned that Ruth died before she had the chance to celebrate her Bat-Mitzvah. It was then that I decided to share my special day with Ruth.
On the day of my Bat-Mitzvah ceremony, Ruth was with me in spirit. In the front row of the temple sanctuary sat a poster with a picture of Ruth and the certificate I received at Yad Vashem. On the seat next to Ruth’s picture was a picture of her mother, Lena Meyer, to symbolize their presence and honor their memories. As I stood up next to my mother to begin the ceremony symbolizing my entering into adulthood, there sat the images of Ruth and Lena, a mother and daughter whose lives were cut short but not forgotten. There the pictures sat together, holding space and representing the souls of the thousands of mothers and daughters who did not live to experience this celebration of life.
Eight years have passed since my Bat-Mitzvah yet I continue to hold Ruth’s memory close to my heart. I still feel Ruth’s strength, I sense her resilience, her courage is my source of motivation, and she is the voice of reason in my mind – reminding me to show mercy and love to my fellow human beings, because that is all that truly matters. As I witness the amazing dedication of the Restoring Family Links team, working to reconnect families separated by war and conflict, I am reminded that these efforts are dedicated to those who were not reunited with their families after the liberation of Auschwitz. Every time a parent and child are reunited through the efforts of Restoring Family Links, we remember the memories of the parents and children who perished in Auschwitz separated from their loved ones. Ruth’s memory is honored each time a family is reconnected and reunited. Her memory keeps me humble and inspired. She is the light that lives within my soul that never fades even when it flickers in darkness.
I dedicate this day of liberation to Ruth Meyer and the thousands of innocent, young children whose lives were cut short in Auschwitz by the unforgiving hand of the Nazis. May we never forget their memories and may their memories be for a blessing.