|By Rob Schuette, Public Affairs Staff
Servicemembers play an important role to help ensure the world never
faces another situation like the Holocaust, said Rabbi Joshua
Rabbi Joshua Ben-Gideon
(standing) speaks to a Fort McCoy audience during the
installation’s observance of Holocaust: Days of Remembrance.
Ben-Gideon spoke about the military’s role in preventing another
Holocaust event and how remembering history is important to the
military and to the Jewish faith.
(Photo by Allan Harding)
Ben-Gideon, the guest speaker for Fort McCoy’s observance of the
Holocaust: Days of Remembrance and the rabbi of the Beth Israel Center
in Madison, Wis., told the audience it was his honor to speak at Fort
McCoy and said he appreciated everything the military does on a daily
basis to protect Americans and guarantee their freedoms. As the military
does, members of the Jewish faith honor their followers, study and learn
from their history, he said.
As long as there are people who are survivors of the Holocaust the event
will be one of remembrance, not a memorial. Ben-Gideon said the
Holocaust was an event where 6.5 million Jews, including about 1 million
children — about half the existing Jews in the world — died or were
murdered suddenly, although the buildup to the situation occurred over a
period of several years.
“The hope is that when we are faced with this situation — a Holocaust —
again, we will be ready to stand up and create a barrier against people
who want to do these things,” he said.
The current survivors often tend to be youth from that time, as a vast
majority of the original adult survivors of the Holocaust probably have
died as have many of the World War II veterans, he said. Ben-Gideon said
several members of his synagogue’s congregation are Holocaust survivors
and will speak about their experiences if asked or requested.
In the 1946 book “Man Searches for Meaning,” by Viktor Frankl, a
Holocaust survivor, the author describes life in Nazi concentration
camps and the lessons for spiritual survival, he said. The book talks
about what camp inmates had to do to survive. For example, inmates could
earn special treatment or premiums, such as cigarettes, for completing a
task, Ben-Gideon said. These cigarettes became very valuable to buy
favors from camp personnel.
“It tells a lot about the dehumanizing effects of the Holocaust that
their lives were measured out in cigarettes,” he said. “People had to do
many dehumanizing things to live. Once they lost the will to live they
Yet, as time becomes further removed from the Holocaust era, people’s
views change, he said in response to a question from the audience.
Twenty years ago Jewish people wouldn’t buy things from Germany, but
Ben-Gideon said today many Jews, including himself, would not think
twice about driving a Volkswagen, for example.
Germans did much to repent and to try to make amends for the Holocaust,
including becoming a big supporter of Israel, he said.
Garrison Deputy Commander Col. Rob Humphrey said Ben-Gideon’s talk
reaffirmed the need to teach and share history with the next generation.
Military personnel and people in general also need to resolve to remain
a nation that will stand in the way of future events, such as the
Holocaust, Humphrey said.
Master Sgt. Claudia Simpson, Fort McCoy Equal Opportunity adviser, said
the purpose of the event is to reflect and resolve to never have another
event similar to the Holocaust occur.
Garrison Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Allen Raub said in his invocation that it
was difficult to see how society could sink to such depths of evil,
immorality and degradation.
The Lord’s holy word advises people to speak up for those who can’t
speak for themselves, for the rights of those who are destitute to be
judged fairly and for the rights of the needy and the poor. Americans
and servicemembers should rise up to be a nation that defends and
protects the helpless and speaks for all those who have no voice, he
The Fort McCoy community will observe Asian-Pacific American Heritage
Month in May. For more information about ethnic observance events in the
Fort McCoy community, call 608-388-3246.