There is a small and quiet square in New York’s Riverside Park overlooking the Hudson River. The trees and flowers are now coming into full bloom, and the place evokes a sense of peace and contemplation. It is the Warsaw Ghetto Memorial Plaza, and in its middle is a simple stone plaque that commemorates “the heroes of the Warsaw ghetto battle, April-May 1943, and the six million Jews of Europe martyred in the cause of liberty.” Buried beneath are two boxes of soil from the Terezin and Scred concentration camps in Czechoslovakia and a scroll commemorating the uprising that erupted 63 years ago today. According to a description at the site, the Nazis forced the city's 400,000 Jews into the ghetto, which they sealed off from the rest of the city with a 10-foot wall. The living conditions were horrendous and as many as 6,000 people died of starvation each month. In 1942 the Nazis deported 300,000 residents to Treblinka and prepared to liquidate the ghetto entirely. The remaining Jews resisted, and on April 19, 1943, German troops entered the ghetto. The rebels held out until May 16, when the ghetto was burned to the ground. Fifteen thousand Jews died in the uprising, and the rest were transported to Treblinka where most of them died in the gas chambers.
Today I simply ask that we remember the evil that humans have inflicted on each other and, more importantly, the heroism to which we can rise in the face of that evil.