My invitation came through Ron Ross who at that time was the International Media representative for Bridges for Peace and as the Australian cricket chaplain who had led tours to the Holy Land and written articles on Israel, I was a candidate for Australasia.
Delma my wife did not want to come as later that same year we would be in England for both the Ashes series and the Baptist World Congress in Birmingham. Instead my 1977 Grooms-man came, Peter Scotland, friends over so many years, and his father Tom as a WWII bomber – pathfinder pilot had dropped supplies to the defenders of Warsaw in their 1944 uprising.
We visited not only Auschwitz but different Nazi Concentration Camps and heard the many stories associated with Jewish life in Poland and Eastern Europe prior to WWII (ah la - Fiddler on the Roof). Moreover now it has been revealed that the civil engineers in 1943 who designed and built and did the upkeep on the gas chambers were full conversant with the murderous program. (unitycoalitionforisrael.org)
Shoes at Auschwitz
It was therefore of interest to me when listening on the Internet from Bridges for Peace Israel Mosaic Radio that Joshua Spurlock spoke of the counting.
Two-thirds of the six million Jews murdered in the Holocaust have now been identified, thanks in large part to efforts set up by the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum in Israel.
Chairman Avner Shalev explained: "The Germans sought not only to destroy the Jews, but to obliterate any memory of them. One of Yad Vashem's central missions since its foundation, the recovery of each and every victim's name and personal story, has resulted in relentless efforts to restore the names and identities of as many of the 6 million Jews murdered by the Nazis and their accomplices as possible.
"We will continue our efforts to recover the unknown names, and by harnessing technology in the service of memory, we are able to share their names with the world."
During the last eight years they have been able to increase the number of victims identified who were from Eastern European nations and Greece. Joshua Spurlock said that it was pleasing that progress was being made in some countries where it has been difficult, in the past, to find information.
A key aspect of the effort to identify those murdered by the Nazis are the Pages of Testimony, which are special forms filled out in memory of the victims by people who remember them. More than half of the names currently known are from these documents. The rest of the names have come from archival sources and post-war commemoration projects.
Cyclon B at Auschwitz
Spurlock also noted that Yad Vashem has also enabled people around the world to find the names of the victims of the Holocaust (Shoah in Hebrew) online. The entire Central Database of Shoah Victims' Names is available on www.yadvashem.org in three different languages: English, Hebrew and Russian.
I have been to Yad Vashem Holocaust museum in Israel, and I have sat and listened to the names of the children murdered in Auschwitz and other Nazi concentration camps. I gave a little glimpse of how this 'counting the names' information can provide insight to the irrecoverable loss.
Avner Shalev said it is impossible, however much he would like to do so, to go back in time and re-set historical decisions and outcomes; he cannot bring these families' loved ones back again and the young people like the famous Anne Frank will never be able to have families of their own.
He concluded that the efforts of organisations like Yad Vashem show how a free press and freedom of speech become even more precious. Not only will the memories of those lost be now saved, but we will all become a little more aware of the enormity of the horror; of how things can go terribly wrong in a secretive society.
Having returned from Yad Vashem, I hugged my wife and children with even more husbandly and fatherly love having heard the names of so many being read out, the irrecoverable loss.
Anzac gives us a lot to reflect upon. Moreover now a flyer in Eastern Ukraine has been circulated that all Jews are to be registered ….. the world is in uproar and officials have declared that it is not authentic but is it believable with recent history in the Ukraine?
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He mentors young writers and has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html