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ND Jew reflects on Holocaust and Heroism Memorial Day

Yom Hashoah: Holocaust and Heroism Memorial Day occurred April 12 this year and gave pause to reflect on being our brother's keeper, according to Ted Kleiman, a board member of Temple Beth El in Fargo.

"A life of deed, not creed," Kleiman said. "That is written on the front of our sanctuary that we see every Sabbath."

Judaism is about moral actions in this life and the eternal consequences of the next, he said. The Bible teaches how to live a righteous life, he said. It is a guideline of how to treat your fellow man.

The Israeli government established Yom HaShoah in 1953 to honor approximately 6 million Jews and 5 million others who perished at the hands of Nazi Germany, and for the Jewish resistance in that period.

But the Holocaust did not capture world attention until 1960 when Israeli agents captured Adolf Eichmann in Argentina, Kleiman said. The former Nazi SS officer was found guilty of crimes against humanity as the architect of the Holocaust and was hanged in 1962.

"There was a span of 15 years where no one talked about the Holocaust until the Eichmann trial," Kleiman said. "One single man was responsible for a whole murder campaign."

Hannah Arendt's book from the Eichmann trial, "A Report on the Banality of Evil," changed the idea that following orders is not an excuse to escape the consequences for actions that are morally wrong, he said.

As a college student in the 1960s, Kleiman visited Dachau concentration camp in Germany and Mauthausen Concentration Camp in Austria.

"They kept everything as it was, like it was frozen in time," he said. "I cannot imagine what these folks experienced."

Yom HaShoah also remembers the Jews who refused to be evacuated from the Warsaw Ghetto to the extermination camps in April 1943. A few hundred people with pistols and Molotov cocktails in Poland inspired the largest resistance movement against the Nazis, he said.

Two divisions of the German army had to be called away from the Eastern front at the height of World War II to deal with it, he said.

"Against almost impossible odds, they made a real fight of it," Kleiman said.

About half of the Jews who died in the Holocaust were the slave laborers at thousands of work camp locations, Kleiman said. They were starved and worked to death in mines, factories and farms, he said.

More died on forced marches or were executed as the allies pushed the German army back within its borders, he said.

"At all the murder camps, the Nazi SS gave orders to kill everybody," Kleiman said. "There were more people than they could kill because they ran out of bullets."

Last August an exhibit, "The North Dakota Jewish Experience: Shvitzing It Out On The Prairie" opened at Bonanzaville in Fargo, he said. The exhibit celebrates the history and contributions of the Jewish community in North Dakota.

"It's a fabulous exhibit," Kleiman said. "I couldn't look at the whole thing at once it was so overwhelming."