Today We Remember the Nameless, Faceless Dead

A View of the Hall of Remembrance

A view of the Yad Vashem Hall of Remembrance

After Israeli agents captured Adolf Eichmann, in 1960, and charged him with crimes against humanity for his role in implementing Hitler’s Final Solution, the unrepentant former Nazi head of Jewish deportations shared several revealing anecdotes with his captors concerning events from those dark days.

One story eventually found its way into CIA files, only to resurface, after declassification, in a 2009 National Archives report about Nazi War Criminals, U.S. intelligence agencies and the Cold War. The story has special significance for all of us who pause today, on Yom Hashoah, to remember victims of The Holocaust. It also further refutes the efforts of the stubborn, hateful few, who despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, continue to insist that The Holocaust never happened.

Eichmann told his captors that while he was in Budapest “sometime” in the fall of 1944, Heinrich Himmler, head of the Gestapo, ordered him to prepare a report about the exact number of Jews the Nazis had killed since taking power in 1933. Because he did not run the death camps or command the death squads in the field, a point Eichmann, no doubt, wished to impress upon his interrogators, he said he had to rely on estimates previously reported by concentration camp commandants and death-squad unit heads in order to prepare a proper report.

The number of murdered Jews Eichmann eventually reported to Himmler was six million. Of these, he said, two-thirds (or 4 million) had died in the camps while the remaining 2 million perished during special killing actions conducted near their homes in Poland and Russia.

Eichmann submitted his report and waited. Eventually, Himmler’s assistant, Hoettl, informed him that his boss was dissatisfied, claiming that the numbers had to be higher. Himmler then ordered Eichmann to forward a copy of the report to the head of his statistical office (apparently, so that he could review and revise it.)

Himmler, who had been closely involved in implementing the Final Solution, believed Eichmann had grossly underestimated the efficiency of the Nazi killing machine. Six million murdered Jews? The number, he insisted, was not even close.

The six-million dead included one million Jewish children, two million Jewish women and three million Jewish men, two-thirds of the estimated nine million Jews living in Europe prior to the war. They represented civilian deaths — unarmed people who the Nazis had singled out for slaughter, slavery and endless brutality strictly because of their familial and religious heritage.

The estimated number of dead may not have been sufficient to satisfy Himmler’s blood lust, but 6 million already is so large an amount that it is truly hard to fathom. How do we put it into perspective? If it took just three seconds to repeat each victim’s name aloud, a single person, reading the names of the dead non-stop, 24 hours a day, seven days a week in a memorial service would need 208 and a third days — or nearly seven sleepless months — in which to complete the task. Of course, no single person’s voice or body could for long withstand the strain such a task would impose, so hundreds, perhaps thousands of individuals would, in actuality, be required to work, in tandem, to complete the vigil.

With each passing generation, The Holocaust’s profound loss of life compounds itself through the conspicuous absence of millions of victim descendants. The six-million Jews who perished under the Nazis represent unspeakable tragedy and pain, horrifying in its scope and impossible, even for the living, to comprehend fully.

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Filed under History, The Holocaust, Uncategorized

One response to “Today We Remember the Nameless, Faceless Dead

  1. Thank you for sharing comprehensive information as viewed through a lens of personal loss. As the numbers of Survivors of the SHOAH are lost to us through time, it becomes all the more important that we pick up their batons and become extended witnesses to the Holocaust so we, and the world will NEVER FORGET! I first visited the Yad V’Shem Museum in Jerusalem immediately after the Six Day War. I was a young American who had spent the prior 7 months on Kibbutz Hazorea in the Valley of Jezreal, and there were very few tourists anywhere to be found. Thus, I had the galleries almost entirely to myself. Somehow, it made the experience all the more personal. I especially remember standing before the greatly enlarged iconic photograph of the young boy standing with his arms raised before a Nazi’s rifle, and the haunting suggestion of the bridge that divided the two sides of the Warsaw Ghetto. Such images stayed with me while writing my novel about a Holocaust Survivor who returns to Poland to come to terms with his past entitled GOLANSKI’S TREASURES. His story was built upon real events and real places with real stories related by real Survivors – as experienced through a fictionalized character. And so we remember in our writing, and in so doing, perhaps we can help assure that the world never forgets. Thank you too, for having visited Let us keep the memories of the martyrs alive, and work towards assuring that the events of the past will not be repeated. NEVER AGAIN!

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