“Never Again,” agreed the audience, nodding assertively to the words of Rabbi Felipe Goodman.
An event to commemorate Yom HaShoah, also known as Holocaust Memorial Day, was held at Temple Beth Sholom in Summerlin Sunday afternoon. The room was packed beyond capacity with people of all ages, from toddlers to 90-year-olds, who came to remember one of the darkest periods in history, not just for the Jewish people but for the entire world.
Yom HaShoah is an annual memorial for the estimated 10 million to 11 million people who died at the hands of the Nazis during the Holocaust. The grim total includes about 6 million Jews, 1.5 million of whom were children.
“Today is important because the memories of those who suffered serve as a legacy to future generations so that they may combat all sorts of hatred and bigotry,” said Elliot Karp, president and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Las Vegas. “This is a day to think of the victims of the Holocaust and what their memories and experiences mean to people today as well as to future generations.”
The concept of future generations carrying a message of remembrance and renewal was present throughout the event as survivors and their families, including second- and third-generation survivors, lit candles in remembrance of the victims of the Nazis and their allies.
“The purpose of the Nazis was not merely to wipe the Jews out of Europe but to wipe out the memory that Jewish communities ever existed,” said special guest Stephen Smith, executive director of the University of Southern California’s Shoah Foundation and the Institute for Visual History and Education. “Because of the memory that we have and the one that future generations will take with them, the Nazis’ purpose failed.
“Because there are those who remember, those who perished will have left a legacy.”
Smith said Holocaust survivor testimonies also help those who suffered similar tragedies, such as the Rwandan genocide, find closure and comfort in the durability of the human spirit.
“People who listen to your stories are able to move on with their lives with hope,” Smith told the survivors present. “Your memories are a part of the past, but they also give light to the future.”
Henry Kronberg, 94, who survived the Gross-Rosen concentration camp in an area of what was then Germany and the Krakow ghetto in Poland, read the poem “Wherever I go …” He said he remembers the execution of his father and living the harsh winter in a packed concentration camp with little food or shelter.
“On this memorial day I rehash my memories, memories I usually try to forget,” he said. “But I think about my experiences and that chapter in my life in hopes that such horrible things never happen again, not just to our people, but to any people.”
This sentiment was shared by Raymonde Fiol, the president of the Holocaust Survivors Group of Southern Nevada. She said her goal is for children to learn about the Holocaust so they may promote the understanding that every human being has the right to live in freedom and with their own beliefs. Now 77, she was 5 when her family was sent to a labor camp in France.
“This day tells the world that we musn’t forget what happened during the Holocaust and that hatred in all forms has to stop,” she said. “It is our responsibility to carry the message on. We must carry the torch.”
Contact reporter Maria Agreda at email@example.com or 702-383-0391. Find her on Twitter @mjfagre.