Bearing witness to the Holocaust

Annual ceremony honors survivors

April 24, 2006|By NICOLE FULLER | NICOLE FULLER,SUN REPORTER

She was less than 5 years old then, but Martha Weiman says she can remember the anti-Jewish graffiti on her parents' carpet and drapery store in the small town of Bocholt, Germany, and her father sick and beaten after two months of captivity at Buchenwald concentration camp.

Later, she said, came the cramped quarters aboard a British freighter that allowed her, her parents and two brothers to escape Nazi Germany.

"I was aware of lots and lots of upheaval," said Weiman, 72, "and a lot of those things came back to haunt me later in life."

FOR THE RECORD - An article in the Maryland section yesterday incorrectly identified the Baltimore Jewish Council, one of the sponsor's of the annual Yom Hashoah Holocaust remembrance ceremony. The article also misstated the number of trips Mayor Martin O'Malley has made to Israel. He has visited once.
The Sun regrets the errors.

But her memories, and those of other survivors, were part of the reason for the gathering last night of hundreds of people at Baltimore Hebrew Congregation for the annual Yom Hashoah Holocaust remembrance ceremony - including many descendants.

The theme was "Bearing Witness: Passing on the Legacy." During a candle-lighting in which about 75 survivors in attendance were recognized, two of Weiman's grandchildren, Rebecca Noel, 17, and Sam Noel, 14, joined her on stage.

Weiman and her daughter, Carol Noel, co-chaired the event, sponsored by the Baltimore Hebrew Council and The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore.

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. pledged to fight "religious hatred and historical revisionism," referring to denials of the Nazi Holocaust that claimed the lives of some 6 million Jews and millions of others during World War II.

Mayor Martin O'Malley, who has made several trips to Israel, said he and his wife had seen, on a visit last year, a pile of shoes belonging to young victims - an image he said has not left him.

"To be remembered was what those men, women and children wanted most," O'Malley said of the victims.

Organizers said last night's remembrance was intended to not only honor those murdered by the Nazis, but to raise awareness to genocide occurring today. A candle was lit for victims of genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan, where thousands of members of ethnic African tribes have been killed and about 2 million displaced in a conflict with the Arab-dominated government and militias.

The event included honors for winners of a student art and writing competition.

Rachel Rossman, a student at Yeshivat Rambam high school, won first place for her essay, titled, "I Am a Jew." Her words were read to the audience:

"So many of us. All. Shoved into train cars ... dark. Pitch dark. So many of us. All smothered together, traveling for hours. ... They strip me of my identity; this is replaced with a number. But still I am a Jew."

Carol Noel said she was impressed that so many students participated, and noted that one of the middle school winners was from the Roman Catholic Sacred Heart School.

"It's so important to keep passing these stories on," she said.

Eighth-graders from Baltimore Hebrew Congregation Day School read names of Holocaust victims before the ceremonies. Teacher Allene Gutin said the pupils have studied the Holocaust, were visited in class by survivors, and will be taking a field trip to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington.

"As you look around, you don't see a lot of kids here," she observed. "To us, it's ultra-important. These kids know that they are the bearer of the history."

One of the pupils present, Joshua Katinsky, 13, said he has already been to the museum with his father. He added, "I'm so glad I was here tonight."

nicole.fuller@baltsun.com

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