Mr. Chairman and distinguished members of the committee: My name is Rabbi Chaim Moshe Stauber. I live in Brooklyn, New York where I am the Executive Director of the World Council of Orthodox Jewish Communities. The World Council, with about 200,000 members worldwide, is the largest organization of Holocaust survivors and their families and families of Holocaust victims.
Most of the Jews of pre-World War II Europe lived in self-contained communities. Religion and religious observances played a central role in their lives. The communities, whether rural or urban, rich or poor, had houses of study and places of worship as well as organizations to help the poor and fatherless. This rich culture developed despite centuries of anti-Semitism, some of it violent in nature. The Jews who lived in these communities were what would be called today "Orthodox." Every aspect of their life was governed by devotion to Jewish law, from their dress to their food to their religious observances.
It was these peaceful communities, whose members wished nothing more than to be left alone to live their lives as observant Jews, that the Nazi "Final Solution" targeted. Whether in the form of soldiers, paramilitary militia or government-instigated civilian mobs, the Nazi Regime targeted Jews for destruction and extermination. Those Jews who were identified by their dress were the easiest targets.
We lost everything in the Holocaust. We lost our parents, siblings, children and other relatives. We lost our way of life. We lost our property and whatever possessions we had. We lost our religious objects, both personal and communal, and charitable resources. Some of us, for reasons we do not completely understand, were destined to stay alive, and for this we offer thanks to Almighty GOD, three times daily.
Through it all, however, we have kept our faith in GOD. Even in the death camps, we did what we could to keep our tradition alive. The fires of the crematoria were still smoldering in some death camps when Displaced Persons Camps began to resonate with the sounds of Torah study.
In the years since the Holocaust, we at the World Council have devoted ourselves to the rebuilding of our decimated communities. The remnants of these communities, having arrived here in the U.S. or in Israel or elsewhere typically with nothing more than the shirts on our backs, took on the task of recreating new communities modeled after the destroyed communities of our parents and grandparents. Around the world today, our constituent congregations have adopted the names of their predecessor communities in Europe and have maintained the same kind of life style and observances as existed before the Holocaust. In addition, we support the communities which continue to exist in Europe and their efforts to keep alive Jewish institutions and traditions.
The material losses of the Holocaust have always been and will always be secondary to the human losses. All the money in the world cannot compensate for the loss of even one human life. But now that the material issues have been raised, they must be handled with justice, through full disclosure of all the facts contained in the archives of all governments. Justice, through the legal accountability of those who turned a blind eye to Nazi efforts to destroy the Jews of Europe and instead profited from those very activities.
To achieve this justice, the World Council commends in the highest possible terms the work of Ambassador Eizenstat and the authors of the preliminary State Department report. We urge our government to continue its searching examination of the historical record. We also urge our government to use its best efforts to encourage other countries to conduct similar inquiries.
For the survivors of the Holocaust, writing this chapter of the historical record will not
bring back our murdered relatives or our lost communities. That, no one can do. But it will
give to the whole world a more complete picture of what happened fifty years ago. We can
only hope that all humanity can learn from this so that such tragedies are not repeated.
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