Oyfn pripetshik brent a fayeri, Un in shtub iz heys;
Un der rebbe lernt kleyne kinderlech dem alefbeyz;
Un der rebbe lernt kleyne kinderlech dem alef-beyz.
Zet zhe, kinderlech, gedenkt zhe tayere, vos ir lernt do;
Zogt zhe noch a mol un take noch a mol: Komets alef o.
I hear music playing, a song I have heard too many times before. I look around the Jewish Heritage Museum and see I have found my way to the section on children in the Holocaust. It is adorned with threadbare handmade items from the concentration camps where the children were held. Their letters to “Matka” tell her how nice this prison-like place is, not knowing it’s a ruse.
Standing in front of the exhibit, I am reminded of the children from the movie Schindler’s List. They climb into the wagon-seated trucks, waving to their parents as the song plays on loud speakers above them. The parents cry and run for their children, following them along as the Nazis take them away. The parents know what is to happen. They know their children will die. The children are unaware, singing along to a song they were taught but a few years before. They look so oblivious and innocent as they pull away, thinking they are going someplace exciting, not to their deaths.
My breathing quickens, my eyes tear up, and I briskly walk away from the exhibit. It hurts too much, hearing the song and knowing what it meant in the movie. I retreat to a corner facing the wall, trying to hold in all the sorrow, all the tears. My soul soaks up the parents’ misery, making their burden, their separation mine.
I turn back toward the exhibit, taking a deep breath as I face the message of the song. The rabbi reminds the children not to forget the alphabet — the roots of communication and language. To forget the language is to forget their story, their heritage, their culture, and what Hitler took from their families.
The Holocaust was an unforgivable event and we can never forget.
Hope Jones is a freshmen at Bryn Mawr College. She loves to play the violin, run, pet her cats, and write. She plans to major in history and search the world for survivors of the Holocaust to get their testimonials. With the testimonials, she hopes to publish her own book so people will never forget this horrific tragedy.