EVERETT — A boy, 12-year-old Isaac Heiman, lit the candle at Temple Beth Or. Rabbi Jessica Marshall stood before the Reform Jewish community. A hush fell upon all who gathered Sunday evening for a commemoration of Yom HaShoah.
Marshall read from a poem by an unknown writer: “I believe in God even when God is silent.” Those words, she said, were scrawled by a Jewish captive on a cellar wall in Cologne, Germany, during World War II.
The Holocaust Day of Remembrance — Yom HaShoah in Hebrew — was Monday. According to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, April 7-14 are the 2013 National Days of Remembrance this year, established by Congress and coinciding with the 70th anniversary of the Warsaw ghetto uprising.
Marshall said the remembrance, which included prayer and song, is not intended as a history lesson of the Holocaust, the Nazi regime’s systematic murder of six million European Jews. “It’s more about never forgetting, so that it never happens again,” she said. “There’s an educational component as well. In the past we’ve had survivors speak.”
Her maternal grandparents both survived the Holocaust. “My grandfather was on a train to Auschwitz. He escaped off the roof into a forest in the snow, and hid for a long time so he could escape,” Marshall said. Her grandmother was a cook in a Siberian work camp. “They were from Poland,” she said.
It was in Poland on April 19, 1943, the second night of Passover, that Warsaw’s Jewish resistance fighters began attacks on Nazi troops sent to deport Jews to death camps. The Warsaw uprising lasted 27 days, until the Germans burned the ghetto and killed or captured the remaining Jews.
In Everett on Sunday, Marshall was joined by six temple members in a reader’s theater presentation. They shared stories of bravery, but the people highlighted were not Jews targeted by the Nazis. They were non-Jewish people who risked their lives to hide or rescue Jews during the Holocaust.
Along with Marshall, the readers included Deb Henry, Vicki Schwartz, Glen Pickus, Vicky Romero, Elaine Beck-Bruns and Lori Wolff. Together, they told six stories of heroism.
Raoul Wallenberg, a Swedish diplomat who sheltered Jews in Swedish buildings in Budapest, is credited with saving 100,000 lives.
Chiune Sugihara, a Japanese diplomat in Lithuania, violated his own government’s orders by writing transit visas for Jews who sought help at a Japanese consulate.
Irena Sendler, a Catholic nurse and social worker in Poland, saved 2,500 Jewish children through her work with Zegota, an underground resistance group. Poland later minted a Zegota coin in her honor.
Celine Morali, whose husband was in hiding, ran a hardware store in occupied France where she hid Jews until they could escape by train to unoccupied southern France. Her granddaughter, Marie-Anne Harkness, attended Sunday’s program in Everett.
Harkness tells her grandmother’s story as a speaker with the Washington State Holocaust Education Resource Center. Also with the center is Susan Weingarten, of Everett, who prepared Sunday’s presentation on the wartime heroes.
The last story told was of the Danish boat rescue. After Adolph Hitler ordered the arrest of all Danish Jews on Oct. 1, 1943, a resistance movement helped by many ordinary Danes used boats to ferry about 8,000 Jews to Sweden.
Marshall talked about traits common among the rescuers. Citing studies by sociology Professor Nechama Tec at the University of Connecticut, the rabbi said many rescuers didn’t blend into their communities, were independent people, had long histories of doing good deeds, chose to help without rational consideration, and had “universalistic perceptions that transcend race and ethnicity.”
“When we hear these stories, I can’t help but put myself in their shoes,” Marshall said, adding that genocide still exists in our world. “What is it that compels us to act? And what is it that terrifies us into inaction?”
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460, email@example.com.
Event today and
The 364th Expeditionary Sustainment Command, a U.S. Army Reserve unit, presents a Holocaust Day of Remembrance event at 2 p.m. today at 13613 40th Ave. NE, Marysville. Speaking will be Leo Hymas. As a U.S. soldier, he participated in the liberation of the Buchenwald concentration camp. Public is welcome.
Everett Community College will host four speakers as part of its 14th annual Holocaust Survivor Forums. The talks are 12:20-1:20 p.m. in the Henry M. Jackson Conference Center, Room 101. Free and open to the public. EvCC is at 2000 Tower St., Everett. Speakers are with the Washington State Holocaust Education Resource Center.
April 17, Eva Tannenbaum Cummins: performs her play about Adolph Hitler’s destruction of her community before she and her mother escaped Germany for the United States.
April 24, Susie Sherman: recounts her family’s escape and the deaths of her extended Czech family, and shares efforts to keep their story alive.
May 8, Leo Hymas: talks about being a U.S. soldier on Europe’s battlefields and helping liberate Germany’s Buchenwald concentration camp.
May 22, Robert Herschkowitz: traces his childhood journey from Belgium to a French concentration camp, and his walk over the Alps to safety in Switzerland.