Who Knows One? Who Knows 6 Million?
By Israel Zwick, CN Publications, April 11, 2007
Jews around the world have just completed the observance of the Passover holiday. Everyone knows that Passover begins with its most famous ritual, the Passover Seder. The penultimate hymn at the end of the Seder is titled, “Who Knows One?” It enumerates the significance of the first 13 numbers in Jewish ritual observance. On the last day of Passover, one of the latter prayers in the synagogue is the Yizkor Service. The Yizkor service begins with a call to remember one close departed relative, generally a father or mother. It continues to recall the memory of other family members, and then ends with a memorial for the millions of Jews who perished Al Kiddush Hashem, for the sanctity of God. These were the martyrs who were killed only because they were Jews.
The Sunday following Passover is usually reserved for the commemoration of Yom Hashoa, the annual Holocaust Memorial. Documents presented at the Nuremburg Trials and the Eichmann Trial, which can be found in the archives of the Holocaust museums in Washington and Jerusalem, provide evidence that approximately 6 million European Jews were brutally slaughtered by the Nazis during World War II from 1940-1945. The number 6 million is difficult to comprehend by the average person. It is difficult to conceive the enormity of such a number and such a human catastrophe. Let’s try to give it some meaning.
Who knows 6 million? I know 6 million. Six million is 3000 X 2000. Why 3000 X 2000? 3000 is the approximate number of innocent people killed by Islamic jihadists in the horrific events of September 11, 2001. 2000 is the approximate number of weeks that have passed since the liberation and reunification of Jerusalem in June, 1967. That means that the number of Jews killed during the Holocaust would be equivalent to 3000 people being killed every week from June, 1967 until today. That would have wiped out the total Jewish population of the State of Israel, an unimaginable catastrophe.
Since the number 6 million is so difficult for most of us to comprehend, perhaps we should focus on a smaller number. It is estimated that of the 6 million Jews who were massacred, 1.5 million were children. How can we comprehend the number 1.5 million?
Who knows 1.5 million? I know 1.5 million. 1.5 million is approximately the total number of children attending school in New York City. So killing 1.5 million children would be the equivalent of killing every child attending school in NYC. Again, this would be an unimaginable catastrophe, difficult to comprehend in the enormity of its horror.
Perhaps it is easier to comprehend the enormity of the Holocaust by reducing the number much further, to the smallest whole number, one. Who knows one? I know one. One is Anne Frank, whose Diary of a Young Girl, has pierced the hearts of millions of readers since its first publication in 1947. Anne wrote her diary from June 1942 to August 1944 while she was hiding from the Nazis in a Dutch attic. Her experiences with her family, her thoughts, and her emotions still remain as a classic testament to the persecution of innocence. Anne died at age 15 in Bergen-Belsen shortly before it was liberated by the British in April, 1945.
Who knows one? I know one. One is little Chayele who was killed at Treblinka at the age of 10. Her brother, Binem Heller, survived the Holocaust and wrote a poem in her memory. The popular Israeli singer, Chava Alberstein, put the poem to music and recorded it. To hear it, click on the hyperlink below.
For those readers who don’t understand Yiddish, the translation follows below:
My Sister Chaya.
Poem by Binem Heller. Music by Chava Alberstein.
Translated by Israel Zwick from the original Yiddish.
My sister Chaya, with the green eyes,
My sister Chaya with her black braids,
The sister Chaya, the one who raised me,
On Smotche Street, in the house with the crooked steps.
The Mother had to leave for work early,
When the sky had barely lightened.
She went to the shop to earn,
A mere few cents of small change.
And Chaya was left with the brothers,
And she cared for them and watched them.
And she sang them nice lullabies,
In the evening when little children become tired.
My sister Chaya with the green eyes,
My sister Chaya with the long hair.
The sister, Chaya, the one who raised me,
She wasn’t even ten years old.
She cleaned, she cooked, and served the food.
She washed our little heads,
But to play with us, she forgot,
The sister Chaya with the black braids.
My sister Chaya with the green eyes,
Was incinerated by a German in Treblinka.
And now I am in the Jewish State,
I am the last one who knew her.
For her, I write my poems in Yiddish,
In these horrible days of our times.
By God alone is she an only daughter,
In heaven she sits by His right side.
Now that you know the words, listen to the song again.
Then on Sunday, Yom Hashoa, light a candle for little Chayele and the 1.5 million children that she represents.