Survivors, community remember horrors, victims of the Holocaust

Author, Nazi hunter among the speakers at annual observance

April 12, 2002|By Donna W. Payne | Donna W. Payne,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

There is no cemetery where Morris Rosen can go to pay tribute to his parents. Rosen, born in Poland, survived five Nazi concentration camps, but his parents, brother and four sisters perished in them.

Rosen, a resident of Baltimore, joined about 400 other people Sunday evening for a "Holocaust Day of Remembrance" service at Columbia's Beth Shalom Congregation, where Rosen's son, Jacob Rosen, is a member.

With no burial site to honor his family, the service was a time for the elder Rosen to remember his loved ones and other Jews who suffered and died in the Holocaust. "This is the only time you can come to commemorate, to think about it, talk about it," he said.

Yom Hashoah, Hebrew for "Day of the Holocaust," is observed in Israel and throughout the world. The date is fixed according to the Jewish lunar calendar and fell on Tuesday this year.

"Every year, we have a Yom Hashoah," said Roberta Greenstein, executive director of the Jewish Federation of Howard County, which sponsored the event at Beth Shalom. "Here in Howard County, we feel it is very important to remember the Holocaust ... that it should never happen again."

Area residents, Holocaust survivors and their families, rabbis from other congregations, and representatives from local, state and federal governing bodies packed the synagogue. County Executive James N. Robey read a proclamation declaring this week to be "Days of Remembrance of the Holocaust" in Howard County.

Attendance at this year's service was about 60 percent greater than in past years, said Sandy Cederbaum, executive director of Beth Shalom Congregation. Yom Hashoah is an opportunity "to be together as a Jewish people here in Columbia," she said. "With the things that are going on [now in the world], I think people felt the need to be unified."

Sunday was an evening for "memories of courage," the theme of the service. But keynote speaker Eli Rosenbaum recalled the savagery of the Holocaust perpetrators.

Rosenbaum is director of the Office of Special Investigations, Criminal Division, in the U.S. Department of Justice. He is an investigator and prosecutor of Nazi war criminals.

"For those of us at the Justice Department who are working to bring to justice the criminals who carried out Hitler's evil designs," Rosenbaum said, "it is the experience of meeting the survivors that gives us the strength to press on."

Early in the service, the audience stood in silence as a line of 61 people - Holocaust survivors and children or grandchildren of survivors - processed to the front of the auditorium. Each carried a yellow tulip and placed it in one of two large vases. A prayer and candle-lighting ceremony followed.

Holocaust survivor Alfred Feldman spoke about his evasion of the death camps, which claimed his mother and sisters. Feldman and his father escaped from Germany to the Italian Alps, where local villagers, at considerable personal risk, helped them to avoid detection for almost two years.

"Such people are heroes," Feldman said, adding that after 57 years they "still shine" in his memory. Feldman's memoir, published by Southern Illinois University Press, is One Step Ahead - A Jewish Fugitive in Hitler's Europe.

The Yom Hashoah service featured an interlude of poignant musical selections from violinist and Columbia resident Daniel Heifetz and his daughter, Soprano Elena Heifetz, who studies opera in New York. They were accompanied on the piano by Hammond High School junior Seth Cohen. The trio offered songs from the Holocaust, including "Close Your Little Eyes," with lyrics that recount a mother's gentle words telling her child to shut her eyes to the horrors of the concentration camp.

The musicians said they were honored to take part in the service and to play for an audience in their home synagogue.

"We cry our hearts out in the music for all the people that have perished in the Holocaust," Daniel Heifetz said.

Rosenbaum said, "Every one of them live on in our hearts. We will honor them ... by recommitting every day to the eradication of the virus of hatred that took them from us. May God bless their souls and keep them in his protective embrace."

The Jewish Federation of Columbia is sponsoring "Art of the Holocaust," which tells the story of children who lived through the Holocaust. The display of children's drawings, on loan from the Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, is scheduled to be at the Howard County Central Library, 10375 Little Patuxent Parkway, Columbia, from Tuesday through April 30.

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