Days of Remembrance of the Victims of the Holocaust (DRVH)

From Wikipedia: “The Days of Remembrance of the Victims of the Holocaust (DRVH) is an annual eight-day period designated by the United States Congress for civic commemorations and special educational programs that help citizens remember and draw lessons from the Holocaust.”

For a number of years, Rabbi Resnicoff had worked to convince the Department of Defense to participate in the national DRVH. He argued that General Eisenhower had already initiated a remembrance program when, after U.S. forces liberated Ohrdruf (a sub-camp of Buchenwald), Eisenhower called for reporters from the U.S. and U.K. to document evidence of the Holocaust, so that the time would never come when such atrocities could be denied, and reports about them could be regarded as mere propaganda. Rabbi Resnicoff urged that Eisenhower’s words — “that the American GI did not always understand what he was fighting for, so he should see this evidence, to understand, at least, what he was fighting against” — became the foundation of an historic military effort to remember and learn from the Holocaust that today’s military had the duty to honor and carry on.

In 1984, Chaplain Resnicoff’s efforts met with success when, on April 1, Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger signed a memorandum to the military services, urging the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and other military commanders to participate in the annual program for the first time.

Rabbi Seymour Siegel (center), then Executive Director of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council, meets the Sixth Fleet Commander, Vice Admiral Edward Martin (right), and Assistant Sixth Fleet Chaplain Arnold Resnicoff (left), to discuss the participation of U.S. Navy Sixth Fleet ships in the U.S. annual Days of Remembrance of the Victims of the Holocaust. USS Puget Sound, Gaeta, Italy (1984)
Rabbi Resnicoff leading the first shipboard Holocaust Days of Remembrance Ceremony on board USS Puget Sound (AD-38), the Sixth Fleet Flagship, during a port visit to Málaga, Spain (May 1984)

With some few exceptions, the annual National Civic Commemoration has taken place in the Capitol Rotunda. Rabbi Resnicoff delivered the following benediction at the ceremony on April 28, 1987:

O Lord our God,
help us pray, as our ceremony ends,
that our service might begin.
And keep us from forgetting the difference.

Keep us from feeling too good
about what we say and do today,
for words are not enough,
and it is far too easy to recall
gigantic evil done by others,
yet miss the link to seeds of future horror
in our own lives:
in apathy, in the careless racial slur,
in blindness to a neighbor’s wound,
or deafness to his cry….

And yet,
let us take some pride–and hope–
in what we do today,
for sometimes, words can pave the way:
songs and prayers
can bear witness to the good within us still,
can give dreams a voice–
a call which might be, must be, heard,
to give direction to our lives.

So, from the Holocaust, we learn:
when we deny humanity in others,
we destroy humanity within ourselves.
When we reject the human, and the holy,
in any neighbor’s soul,
then we unleash the beast, and the barbaric,
in our own heart.
And, since the Holocaust, we pray:
if the time has not yet dawned
when we can all proclaim our faith in God,
then let us say at least
that we admit we are not gods ourselves.
If we cannot yet see the face of God in others,
then let us see, at least,
a face as human as our own.

So long ago
the Bible taught that life might be
a blessing or a curse:
the choice is in our hands.
Today we vow:
the curse will be remembered.
But our prayer must also be;
to fight despair;
to find the strength, the courage,
and the faith,
to keep alive the dream
that–through us and through our children–
the blessing might still be.

Rabbi Resnicoff was part of a cooperative team among the Department of Defense, the United Holocaust Memorial Council, and the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, to create the official Department of Defense Guide for remembrance ceremonies on all U.S. military ships and stations

First edition

View the Department of Defense guide for annual commemorative observance (View Online) (Download as pdf)