Holocaust Day commemorated

2019-05-07 06:00
Miriam Lichterman, Holocaust survivor and guest speaker.

Miriam Lichterman, Holocaust survivor and guest speaker.

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The annual Holocaust Remembrance Day called Yom HaShoah at the Pinelands Jewish Cemetery, was attended by thousands of Capetonians last Thursday.

A heartfelt tribute to the lasting memory of the six million Jews exterminated by the Nazis during World War 2. This year marks the 80th anniversary of the start of the war in Poland. The Holocaust started at 06:00 on 1 September 1939, when Warsaw was struck fiercely by the first of a succession of organised bombing raids by the Nazi Luftwaffe air forces.

The official ceremony organised by the Cape South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD Cape) included extracts from the historical memoirs of local Cape Town survivors eloquently describing the lasting impact of the Nazi invasion of Poland.

Zola Shulman, the beloved daughter of two Lithuanian survivors movingly performed a Yiddish song, Ich Nemk Aheim. The song was written by her uncle, poet and songwriter, Leyb Rosenthal in the Vilna Ghetto. Rosenthal died tragically in a labour camp two days before liberation.

The special guest speaker was Miriam Lichterman, a Sea Point resident in her 90s who miraculously survived, the Warsaw Ghetto, Auschwitz and the Death March. She spoke of the horrors she experienced in the six years she was held captive in the concentration camps. She appealed to the youth to never forget the past and thanked the Jewish community for their support to her and her family to help them overcome the horrors of their past.

Rael Kaimowitz, chairman of the SAJBD (Cape Council) said after 70 years the world has not learned its lesson. “World bodies are ineffectual in providing clear, strong, moral leadership. As the world turned its back on the Jews in the 1930s, and again in genocidal massacres in Rwanda, Myanmar, Syria, Sudan – it is our job to shine a light onto the darkness.” He continued; “There is no place for anti-semitism in the world today. But let’s also stand up and say there is no place for Islamophobia, or for the senseless murder of over 300 Christian worshippers in Sri Lanka. There is no place for the unfounded hatred of Jews. But let’s also stand up and say there is no place for hatred of the LGBTQ+ community or for the Behai or for the Hindu community.”

Yom HaShoah is a time that they too remember the Roma and Sinti, people with disabilities, Poles and Slavic ethnic groups, Soviet prisoners of war, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and people who were targeted based on their sexual orientation, all of whom were targeted and killed by the Nazis and their collaborators.

“These terrible hatreds arise from the same dark human impulse, from the fear and suspicion and ignorance of the other. So let’s not only pay lip service when we say no place for hate. Let’s call it out when we hear and when we see it,” Kaimowitz urged. “Let us commit to telling our parents and grandparents, our friends and our colleagues that hate in any form is not acceptable. If we do this; then we ensure nobody has perished in vain. Instead, we bring blessing and holiness and a continual upliftment to the six million holy souls of our brothers and sisters that were slaughtered … and we take the first steps in saying with conviction that never again means just that … never again… for anyone.”

Holocaust Remembrance Day is about more than just remembering. It’s about saying “never again,” and then ensuring “never again does not happen again,” he said.

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