Yom HaShoah: The Only Way To Achieve “Never Again”

I spent much of my childhood wishing that I had Holocaust survivors in my family. Now before you completely judge me for having such an insane wish, hear me out. I was raised to be a proud Jew, but did not have much of a foundation for that pride. Our minimal observance occurred only when it was convenient to observe, and despite going to Hebrew school and having a bat mitzvah, I knew next to nothing about Judaism. So a large part of my Jewish identity stemmed from Holocaust awareness and a connection to the State of Israel.

Some of my friends and classmates had survivors in their family. Others had relatives who lived in Israel. The “lucky” ones had both. I had neither, and frankly, it made me feel like less of a Jew at times. Every year at the Holocaust Awareness assembly in my public school, the kids who were the grandchildren of survivors got to go up on stage and be part of the presentation. There weren’t too many Jews in my grade – never more than a handful – and not getting to be a part of the assembly made me feel like it wasn’t my history as much as it was the theirs, and I longed to be a part of the collective Jewish experience.

By the time I was a teenager, the Holocaust was a serious reason to doubt God’s existence. I had never been given any reasons to believe in God, but how could I not doubt the existence of a God who let such atrocities happen to His people? It was only after I discovered Torah learning and observant living, later in my teens, that I began to understand that it’s possible for a loving God to allow awful things happen in the world. If God is truly God, then His ways, by definition, will always be beyond our comprehension.

Though I would never judge a survivor for losing faith (having never endured the Holocaust myself), as an adult, I’ve come to see that emunah (faith) exists in large part due to choice. And it’s the people who lived through the hell of the Holocaust (and other hardships), yet cling to their faith, that inspire me most. Choosing faith is all I can do to stay sane in such an insane world and raise children in it. Trusting in God, whose plan may not always make sense to me, is the only way I can make sense out of so much pain.

On Yom HaShoah – Holocaust Remembrance Day – we say “Never Again.” But those words, in light of the last two thousand years of Jewish history, which began with the murder of a million Jews at the destruction of the Second Temple (see chart below for the rest), are pretty empty. Though most of Jews feel quite secure in the world today, if history repeats itself, which history often does, it’s not “Never Again” but rather, “When?” Nobody wants to think about this, especially on a day like Yom HaShoah, but I believe that our sense of security is false.

As a person who puts herself out there publicly as a Jew, I can tell you that there is plenty of anti-Semitism still left in the world. Every day or two, I get a message or comment on one of Jew in the City’s many social media platforms, from a person somewhere out there, who wants to let me know that he or she is waiting for the next Auschwitz. That Hitler’s work must still be finished.

But since I’m a person of faith, I live with hope. And I believe that  “Never Again” is possible – just not in the current state of the world. History will only stop repeating itself when we change the course of history by finally getting ourselves out of galus (exile). The formula for ending our galus is clear. We must each improve ourselves and return to Jewish tradition.

It’s ironic, that events like the Holocaust cause so many to lose faith and break with observance when the best chance we have to avoid a future Holocaust is to do just the opposite, but that is one of the many challenges we face. I won’t deny that the Utopian world (yamos hamoshiach) that Jewish tradition speaks of is hard to imagine, even for a religious person like me. Believing in world peace and the universal recognition of God seems to defy reason. But, then again, so does the chart below: that our people could be so hated and pursued in every generation, yet could have survived it all without there being a larger Purpose.

Confronted with two different types of illogical situations, I choose to believe in the one that’s in accordance with my tradition and I choose to live as a Jew and pass our beautiful heritage onto my children. Because if the new reality that I hope and pray for doesn’t ever come about, then chances are that either I, my children or my children’s children could one day die as Jews. So in the meantime, we will keep on living proudly (but this time with a foundation of knowledge, observance, and faith)  as Jews.

(Source: P.E. Grosser & E.G. Halperin, Anti-Semitism: Causes and Effects, New York: Philosophical Library, 1978)


250 C.E.
      Canhage Expulsion
224 C.E. Italy Forced Conversion
325 C.E. Jerusalem Expulsion
351 C.E Persia Book Burning
357 C.E. Italy Property Confiscation
379 C.E. Milan Synagogue Burning
415 C.E. Alexandria Expulsion
418 C.E. Minorca Forced Conversion
469 C.E. Ipahan Holocaust
489 C.E. Antioch Synagogue Burning
506 C.E. Daphne Synagogue Burning
519 C.E. Ravenna Synagogue Burning
554 C.E. Diocese of Clement (France) Expulsion
561 C.E. Diocese of Uzes (France) Expulsion
582 C.E Merovingia Forced Conversion
612 C.E. Visigoth Spain Expulsion
628 C.E. Byzantium Forced Conversion
629 C.E. Merovingia Forced Conversion
633 C.E. Toledo Forced Conversion
638 C.E. Toledo Stake Burnings
642 C.E. Visigothic Empire Expulsion
653 C.E. Toledo Expulsion
681 C.E. Spain Forced Conversion
693 C.E. Toledo Jews Enslaved
722 C.E. Byzantium Judaism Outlawed
855 C.E. Italy Expulsion
876 C.E. Sens Expulsion
897 C.E. Narbonne Land Confiscation
945 C.E. Venice Ban on Sea Travel
1009 C.E. Orleans Massacre
1012 C.E. Rouen, Limoges & Rome Massacre
1012 C.E. Mayence Expulsion
1021 C.E. Rome Jews Burned Alive
1063 C.E. Spain Massacre
1095 C.E. Lorraine Massacre
1096 C.E. Northern France & Germany 1/3 of Jewish Population Massacred
1096 C.E. Hungary Massacre
1096 C.E. Ralisbon Massacre
1099 C.E. Jerusalem Jews Burned Alive
1100 C.E. Kiev Pogrom
1140 C.E. Germany Massacres
1146 C.E. Rhine Valley Massacre
1147 C.E. Wurzburg Massacre
1147 C.E. Belitz (Germany) Jews Burned Alive
1147 C.E. Carenton, Ramenu & Sully (France) Massacres
1171 C.E. Blois Stake Burnings
1181 C.E. France Expulsion
1181 C.E. England Property Confiscation
1188 C.E. London & York Mob Attacks
1190 C.E. Norfolk Jews Burned Alive
1191 C.E. Bray (France) Jews Burned Alive
1195 C.E. France Property Confiscation
1209 C.E. Beziers Massacre
1212 C.E. Spain Rioting and blood bath against the Jews of Toledo.
1215 C.E. Rome Lateran Council of Rome decrees that Jews must wear the “badge of shame” in all Christian countries. Jews are denied all public sector employment, and are burdened with extra taxes.
1215 C.E. Toulouse (France) Mass Arrests
1218 C.E. England Jews Forced to Wear Badges
1231 C.E. Rome Inquisition Established
1236 C.E. France Forced Conversion/Massacre
1239 C.E. London Massacre & Property Confiscation
1240 C.E. Austria Property confiscation. Jews either imprisoned, converted, expelled, or burned.
1240 C.E. France Talmud Confiscated
1240 C.E. England Book Burning
1240 C.E. Spain Forced Conversion
1242 C.E. Paris Talmud Burned
1244 C.E. Oxford Mob Attacks
1255 C.E. England Blood libel in Lincoln results in the burning / torture of many Jews & public hangings.
1261 C.E. Canterbury Mob Attacks
1262 C.E. London Mob Attacks
1264 C.E. London Mob Attacks
1264 C.E. Germany Council of Vienna declares that all Jews must wear a “pointed dunce cap.” Thousands murdered.
1267 C.E. Vienna Jews Forced to Wear Horned Hats
1270 C.E. Weissenberg, Magdeburg, Arnstadt, Coblenz, Singzig, and Erfurt Jews Burned Alive
1270 C.E. England The libel of the “counterfeit coins” – all Jewish men, women and children in England imprisoned. Hundreds are hung.
1276 C.E. Bavaria

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  • Avatar photo Ze'ev G says on April 19, 2012

    Shkoiach! Excellent work.

  • Avatar photo Bracha says on April 19, 2012

    Wow!This is a powerful post…My husband and I have a special bond with Holocaust survivors…It’s amazing what they went through in their life and they survived…

  • Avatar photo Amanda says on April 21, 2012

    Very powerful post. I think you should have included the 1933 passing of The Nuremberg Laws in Germany. I believe it was a foreshadowing of the horrific events to follow.

  • Avatar photo Rebecca says on April 21, 2012

    Thank you for sharing this astounding sad history with us. We Gentiles can also work to never forget and help protect your lives and beautiful lineage. You are a special teacher.

  • Avatar photo Devora says on April 23, 2012

    I think its important that you write an article about the Evian Conference. Since this is truly where the Shoa began. When Hitler saw for himself that the world abandoned us it became easy for the atrocities to happen. Many people I speak with never heard of the Evian Conference and they tend to look skeptical and disbelieving when I mention it. It seems to have been lost in the annals of history. When we don’t have a clear reference of events that is where confusion and apathy begins. The world turned its back on us and allowed Germany to implement its “Final Solution”. The countries who plant nicely with us now refused to help us then. Perhaps this is something that mangy people need to see(read) with their own eyes?

  • Avatar photo Andrea Grinberg (Andrea Herzog) says on April 23, 2012

    This is amazing! We truly have to live in a way that “never again” will be never.

  • Avatar photo Rochelle says on May 6, 2012

    I’m highly impressed. Keep up your amazing work.

  • Avatar photo Fashion-isha says on July 28, 2012

    Wow this chart gave me chills…I never saw it so clearly as I see it here. We better get our acts together fast!

  • Avatar photo BasyaD says on April 7, 2013

    Thanks for publishing the list which, alas, is only partial.

  • Avatar photo Silky Pitterman says on April 7, 2013

    I’m impressed with all the research you’ve done. I learned from this. You did forget the last auto de fe in Mexico in the 1850s.
    Thank you for your great article.

  • Avatar photo queenie says on April 7, 2013

    [sigh]. . . . “Choosing faith is all I can do to stay sane in such an insane world and raise children in it. Trusting in God, whose plan may not always make sense to me, is the only way I can make sense out of so much pain.”


    Thank you for your thoughtful words. I just read Habakkuk a few mornings ago – having dreamt about it the night before – and was struck that the world we live in today is much the same as it was then. Truly, “there is nothing new under the sun.”

  • Avatar photo Queenie says on April 7, 2013

    Unfortunately, the Holocaust was not exclusively on the Jews of Europe, as our fellow Jews in the Middle East and North Africa were also murdered. This is something that’s often not discussed.

  • Avatar photo Dorothy Rabin says on January 29, 2015

    We may hope, that never again another nation will initiate attack against us.
    We may also trust in God to protect us and save us.
    We should know from our history, that many people hate us (the reasoning of this hate is all wrong) , so we will have to fight again.
    The most important is to be ON ALERT, always BE PREPARED to defend ourselves if need be, and FIGHT until our aggressor- attacker is no more. NEVER , EVER TO GIVE UP.!!!! Remember guys, that we are not alone-we have Israel standing behind us. Dorothy R.


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