Category Archive: Commemorations

Holocaust survivors, veterans gather at DC Museum

Elderly Holocaust survivors and the veterans who helped liberate them gathered for what could be their last big reunion Monday at the U.S.Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Nearly 1,000 survivors and World War II vets joined with former President Bill Clinton and Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Holocaust activist Elie Wiesel to mark the museum’s 20th anniversary. Organizers chose not to wait for the 25th milestone because many survivors and vets may not be alive in another five or 10 years.

Holocaust is a ‘part of Hungarian history,’ lawmaker says

A lawmaker of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s ruling Fidesz party has called the Holocaust “part of Hungarian history.” Speaking during ceremonies in Budapest marking the country’s Holocaust Remembrance Day Zoltán Pokorni said: “Those who were killed were Hungarians and those who killed were also Hungarians.” Exhibition openings, conferences, and theater performances were held throughout the country in memory of the victims of the Shoah. Hungary marks its Holocaust Remembrance Day each year on April 16, the day in 1944 that Jews began to be forced into ghettos in Hungary. Within three months over 500,000 Jews were deported to extermination camps, including 440,000 Jews to Auschwitz, where every third victim was a Hungarian Jew. 600,000 Hungarian Jews were killed in the Holocaust.

Rabbi Herschel Schacter, former Presidents Conference chair, dies at 95

Rabbi Herschel Schacter, a former chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, has died.

Schacter, the first U.S. Army chaplain to enter and participate in the liberation of the Buchenwald concentration camp, died Thursday. He was 95.
Along with serving as chairman of the Presidents Conference from 1967 to 1969, he was president of the Mizrachi-Hapoel Hamizrachi, founding chairman of the American Jewish Conference on Soviet Jewry and chairman of the Chaplaincy Commission of the Jewish Welfare Board. He also was director of rabbinic services at Yeshiva University.
Schacter, a student of the esteemed Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, served as rabbi of the Mosholu Jewish Center in the Bronx, N.Y., for more than 50 years.
“Rabbi Schacter was an exemplary leader who often spoke of his deep commitment to Jewish inclusiveness and unity,” Presidents Conference leaders Richard Stone and Malcolm Hoenlein said in a statement Thursday.
Schacter led a Kindertransport from Buchenwald to Switzerland after World War II. In 1956, he was a member of the first rabbinic delegation to the USSR and escorted a transport of Hungarian refugees from Austria to the United States.

Holocaust commemoration marks shift for Greek Jews in fight against neo-Nazis

Antonis Samaras stood in the pale morning light coming through the stained glass windows of the only Thessaloniki synagogue to survive World War II and vowed, “Never again.” For Greek Jews marking the 70th anniversary of the destruction of this city’s historic Jewish community, the Greek prime minister’s words were long awaited. So was his presence — the first time a sitting Greek premier had set foot in a synagogue in 101 years.
“We have to be very careful to remember the message of ‘Never again,’ ” Samaras said at the March 17 commemoration. “The fight against neo-Nazis is more important than ever.”
Greek Jews had the past on their minds on the weekend of March 15 -17 as they gathered to remember the beginning of the Nazi deportation of Thessaloniki’s Jews to Auschwitz. But they were also mindful of the present, in particular the sudden rise of Golden Dawn, a neo-Nazi party that erupted on the political scene last year, coming from nowhere to grab 18 seats in the Greek Parliament.
Greece’s government, besieged by an economic crisis and unwilling to confront an emerging populist party, has said little about Golden Dawn’s violent activities against immigrants and anti-Semitic outbursts. But Samara’s presence in Thessaloniki, and his vow to be “completely intolerant to violence and racism,” appeared to mark a shift.
“For me this was something that I saw now for the first time,” said David Saltiel, president of the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece. “It was the first time for a prime minister in a synagogue, and also for him to be so clear that he wanted this to symbolize his tough decision not to permit racism and anti-Semitism.”
Greece’s small Jewish community has watched in horror as Golden Dawn has grown in popularity over the past year, garnering more and more public support. Greek Jews had hoped there would be some pushback from the country’s leaders in the face of attacks on immigrants by black-shirted gangs and anti-Semitic statements by party leaders. But there has been little.

Macedonia remembers tiny Jewish community, killed in Holocaust; apology sought from Bulgaria

SKOPJE, Macedonia — Macedonia on Monday marked the 70th anniversary of the deportation of nearly its entire Jewish community to a Nazi death camp during World War II, while a U.S.-based diaspora group called on neighbor Bulgaria to apologize for its role in the Holocaust.
Culture Minister Elizabeta Milevska led the memorial to honor the 7,144 people who were deported. Only about 50 of them survived.
Macedonia was part of Yugoslavia until its independence in 1991, and most of its territory was occupied during the war by Bulgaria.

The day that changed everything

I remember the day that changed everything.
It was Sept. 27, 1989, my 19th birthday. Crisp fall day, three weeks after arriving at the University of Western Ontario. I’m not going to go deeply into it, but life hadn’t been very fun for me.
Walking through campus, however, I decided things were going to be different. Three people are responsible for that. This is my thank you.
Moishe Yaakov Kujawski, Mania Bodner and Eva Bross met in Bergen-Belsen, the Nazi concentration camp liberated by the British in April 1945. They were all Polish and had been through the worst kind of hell.
Eva was born in Warsaw in 1913. Before imprisonment, she got married and had two children. She survived. The rest didn’t. Following liberation, she met David Bross. In 1948, they emigrated to Canada, settling in Kitchener, Ont., an hour west of Toronto.
Mania was born in 1920. The town is called Oswiecim, but we know it better as Auschwitz. Depending on what source you believe, between one to three million people died in the largest of the camps. While captive, she married, but her husband did not make it.
Mania never told me the full details, but in January 1945, with the Russian army advancing, she was among a group of prisoners forced to retreat to Bergen-Belsen approximately 700 kilometres away. Some of it was on foot. Some of it was packed like cattle in an exposed train. All she ever said to me was that it was freezing cold, took two days and anyone who couldn’t continue was shot to death. (A relative has told me she collapsed at one point and was carried part of the way.) Once, I tried to ask a little more, but it was too difficult for her.

French swimmer explains Hebrew tattoo as tribute to Holocaust survivor

French Olympic swimmer Fabien Gilot said the Hebrew tattoo on his left arm is a tribute to his late grandmother’s husband, a Jewish survivor of Auschwitz.  Gilot, who is not Jewish, said the tattoo is dedicated to his family and honors Max Goldschmidt, who has been a large influence in the Olympic champion’s life. The tattoo says “I’m nothing without them.”  He revealed the tattoo, which is on the inside of his left arm, after exiting the pool following his team’s gold medal-winning performance.

Hollande compares Toulouse attacks to Holocaust 

PARIS – President Francois Hollande led ceremonies Sunday marking the 70th anniversary of the largest roundup of Jews in World War II France, and promised to crackdown on anti-Semitism in a country reeling from killings at a Jewish school in March.
Some 13,000 Jews were deported by French police on July 16 and 17, 1942, many of whom were first holed up in harsh conditions at Paris’ Vel d’Hiv, or the Winter Velodrome stadium.
Thousands of men, women and children were eventually taken to the Nazi’s Auschwitz death camp, where they were killed.
Speaking from the site of the former stadium near the Eiffel Tower, Hollande told a gathering, which included Jewish leaders, that the crime “was committed in France by France.”
“Not one German soldier, not one was mobilized during this entire operation,” Hollande said.
Hollande invoked the memory of a killing of three Jewish schoolchildren and a rabbi in the southern French city of Toulouse in March.
“Four months ago … children died for the same reason as those in the Vel d’Hiv – because they were Jewish,” said Hollande.