Holocaust Remembrance by Tami Luchow
Tami is a JWRP alumna from Bergen, New Jersey and an inspirational speaker and writer.
I am a Jew. I understand the need to remember the Holocaust. I am also a person with a disability, a woman with a disability and I once was a child with a disability. Not a hidden disability, a very visible difference. I was born without my leg and from my earliest memories I have worn an artificial limb.
When I remember the victims of the Holocaust, I think of the millions of people with disabilities who were killed because they were imperfect, impure, ugly, different, unable, unwell, and every other negative word that one can think of was heaped onto that group of people with disabilities as they were pointed toward the gas chambers.
Those who were killed in the Holocaust that are often forgotten are the millions of people with disabilities from many religions and races and ethnicities. In those times, many traveling gypsies were also people with differences — "others" — who didn't garner clout and influence in mainstream communities.
I would like to think that much has changed, that the voiceless then would be heard today. But all I can think of is the pile of artificial limbs and crutches and canes that has stayed with me since I first viewed it at Yad Vashem as a child. People talk of piles of shoes and piles of hair and piles of gold teeth and yes, every pile is horrific. The piles linger and I know I have parts that would have fit in many piles. None of the parts were my choice, they were simply my birthright.
Today, I choose to speak up and speak out to remember the Holocaust. Most of all, I speak out to remember the people with disabilities and the people who stood out from the crowd as different and perished for just those reasons. Yes, I also remember the millions of Jewish people, Catholic people and every person who was killed in that time when hate was allowed to rule.
Today, I hope. I hope that more people will speak up for what is right and what is good and what is just. I hope that more people living with disabilities will have their voices heard in the workplace, in the centers of power, in schools, in communities, in places of worship, because we all count and we all matter. People with disabilities then and now are part of every race, gender, ethnicity, sexual preference, socioeconomic group, political group and religion. We still have to fight for our needs as a people living with disabilities with every drop of snow and every stair without a ramp and every door without a button and every speaker without an interpreter and every sign without Braille and much, much more.
So, let's remember those who were killed because of their differences. Let's join together and make the world a better place today in their memory. Collectively, we are all uniquely empowered to make our voices heard. Let's never forget people's potential for goodness and righteousness. Let's keep sharing stories of the people who made good choices to help others in the face of death. Let's emulate those who stand up and stand out to help others. Let's not forget that each limb, each crutch, each cane, came from a person, a person who had a heart, a soul and dream that was unique.
For more information on Tami's work, please visit the following links:
- Her change.org petition link that advocates for civil rights for people with disabilities: https://www.change.org/p/equal-rights-for-limbs-for-life-equal-rights-for-limbs-for-life?recruiter=424790738&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=facebook&utm_campaign=share_facebook_responsive&utm_term=des-lg-no_src-no_msg&fb_ref=Default
- Her website: www.tamiluchow.com
- Her Facebook advocacy page: https://www.facebook.com/TLCTamiLuchowCares/?fref=ts