White Sands Missile Range community members came together to memorialize victims of the holocaust during a Days of Remembrance ceremony held at the Frontier Club April 16.
Rabbi Larry Karol from Temple Bethel-El in Las Cruces was the guest speaker at this year’s event. Karol’s speech focused on different accounts and reaction to the holocaust that have been documented throughout several films, and forms of literature.
“To tell the story of the Holocaust is a choice that empowers us,” Karol said.
He said it is human nature for one social group to be suspicious of another. Karol highlighted an act of hatred that occurred last year where a man targeted a Jewish community. The man intended to kill individuals of Jewish faith and targeted a Jewish senior care center and a Jewish community center. The man killed three individuals, one was Catholic and two were Methodist. Karol said the killer who targeted these centers failed to see that the Jewish community now serves the greater community of all faiths.
“His violent act had the unintended consequence of bringing different faiths together,” Karol said.
Karol also touched on a devoutly religious individual’s take on the holocaust.
“There was a challenge of dealing with the role of God throughout that time,” Karol said.
Karol explained that the holocaust was not in the divine realm. The holocaust can simply be explained as the failure in human beings to act in a divine way.
“If I’ve learned one lesson it’s that our species has an astonishing spiritual resilience in adversity,” Karol said.
“When free will fails humanity we must act. May we choose to act so that more and more people will know acceptance, fellowship, and freedom,” Karol added.
The ceremony began with a lighting of 11 candles followed by a moment of silence and a prayer for the victims of the holocaust by Chaplain Bradley West. One by one, a total of 11 candles were lit to memorialize 11 categories of victims who were affected by this low point in history.
The ceremony ended with a series of awards presented to individuals who participated in the lighting of the candle ceremony by WSMR Executive Director Paul Mann. Mann also presented a plaque to Karol and thanked him for his presentation to the WSMR community.
“It’s going to make us think hard and think long and continue what we’re already doing,” Mann said. “What we do here every day prepares the nation and prepares each other.”
Mann shared his experience of visiting a concentration camp in Munich while on travel duty.
“Thinking about it today I still have a sickening feeling in my stomach,” Mann said. “It’s just a memory I’ll never forget.”
Mann encouraged the workforce to learn about this tragic event and others like it and to react whenever faced with injustice.
“Everybody has the ability to read and research and understand how this affects them emotionally,” Mann said. “It’s not what people do to you that matters it’s how you react.”