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The International School for Holocaust Studies

Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Day - Educational Materials

Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Day 2015 – Educational Materials

Seventy Years Since the End of WWII: The Anguish of Liberation and the Return to Life


Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Day 5755 (2015) marks seventy years since the end of World War II. While in 1945 much of the world was celebrating the end of six years of bitter warfare, for the Jews victory had come too late. The day of liberation, the one for which every Jew had longed throughout the years of the Holocaust, was for most a day of crisis and emptiness, a feeling of overwhelming loneliness as they grasped the sheer scale of the destruction on both the personal and communal level.

At war's end, in the early spring of 1945, it became apparent that some six million Jews had been murdered – about one-third of world Jewry. Those who had survived were scattered throughout Europe: tens of thousands of survivors of the camps and death marches, liberated by the Allied armies on German soil and in other countries, were in a severely deteriorated physical condition and in a state of emotional shock. Others emerged for the first time from various places of hiding and shed the false identities they had assumed, or surfaced from partisan units with whom they had cast their lot and in whose ranks they had fought for the liberation of Europe.

With the advent of liberation, piercing questions arose in the minds of the survivors: How would they be able to go back to living a normal life, to build homes and families? And having survived, what obligation did they bear towards those who had not – was it their duty to preserve and commemorate their legacy? Were the survivors to avenge them, as they demanded before their death? The overwhelming majority of survivors took no revenge on the Germans, but set out on a path of rehabilitation, rebuilding and creativity, while commemorating the world that was no more.

The materials on this website focus on these topics, between the anguish of liberation and the return to life. Included are videos discussing various facets of these early years after the war and how they can be approached in the classroom, lesson plans and ceremonies, online exhibitions, photo galleries, discussion of survivor artwork, pedagogical and historical articles, background information, and more.

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