survivors began the week by presenting each student and teacher with a pin of "Remembrance."
|The Holocaust Remembrance Project's most
public event is the annual awards banquet at which clients and
friends join Holland & Knight lawyers to award the Holocaust
survivors, teachers, and student scholarship recipients. While some
have had an opportunity to see the entirety of the project and its
impact, it is seldom seen by many. Therefore, we are presenting
scenes from the Holocaust Remembrance Project week, so that
all within Holland & Knight can share in the poignant interactions
among the generations.
After the students, teachers, and Holocaust survivors arrived safely in Washington DC, a meeting was held to make introductions. Afterwards, each Holocaust survivor placed a pin with the Hebrew word ZAHOR (Remembrance) on each student and teacher.
Later that day, Sam Harris opened the week with his testimony of his father's instruction to run and hide when the residents of his ghetto were being lined up to board freight cars to the camps. Sam ran and found his sister Rosa, and the children spent the next four years in and out of camps . Sam was saved by a rare favor for a Jewish man in the same concentration camp in exchange for his heroism in W.W. I. The man's favor was to have the children's lives spared – not just his own, but "all or none." The children were spared. The rest of Sam's family perished, and he was later adopted by a Chicago family.
On Monday, the group arrived at Holland & Knight's offices and spent much of the day as witnesses to the witnesses of the Holocaust.
Leo Bretholz spoke first before a book signing at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. Driven from his home in Austria, Leo was sent out into the world at 9 to save his own life. Eventually, he was captured, and placed in the Drancy Camp, then sent to Auschwitz by cattle car. With some help, the bars on the car finally moved so that he could leap from the train. With the underground's help, he secured false papers as "Max Henri Lefevre" and worked for the underground forging IDs and locating German troops. Leo's book Leap Into Darkness is given to each student and teacher.
Nicholas Winton was a 29 year old stockbroker when he heard about the deadly fates of the Jews of Europe and set about to save the children through the Kindertransport Program. Alice Masters was saved because she was one of Winton's 669 Kindertransport children. Winton would have saved more but Hitler closed the borders on September 1, 1939, when Poland was invaded. Masters tells the story of saying good-bye to her parents at 12, and shows the dress her mother made for her to wear on the train and boat. Alice parents were killed. Adults in Great Britain and Sweden became foster parents for the children, including Alice and her sisters. (Nicholas Winton never told a soul what he did, until his scrapbook of all the children was found in 1988 – it is now at Yad Vashem in Israel).
Helga Franks woke up on the morning after Kristallnacht, and saw the broken glass and the bright light on the horizon – but it was not the sun. It was her school and the town synagogue in blazes. Helga's family fled to France, and upon its occupation, she and her mother secured false papers and hid in fear. Her father succumbed to an illness and died after time in a brutal prison camp. Helga worked with the French Resistance, and later moved to the United States. Her family includes granddaughter Joanna Sackel, an associate in Holland & Knight's Fort Lauderdale office.
Peter Feigl was born into a Jewish family in Austria, and was baptized as a Catholic for protection from Nazi persecution. The family moved to France and remained as refugees until 1942, when Jewish deportations became rampant. Peter found protection in a Catholic summer camp, and his parents told him they would come back for him. Unbeknownst to Peter, his parents were deported shortly thereafter and were murdered in Auschwitz-Birkenau. Later, he was sheltered in Le Chambon sur Lignon, the Protestant enclave that is now famous for having protected thousands of Jews. Peter's story was featured on MTVs program, "I'm Still Here."
Halina Silber's name was on Oskar Schindler's list. Halina told the students about living as a ten year-old girl in Krakow when the German occupation began in 1939. The family fled to a small town to hide, but as the situation became more desperate, Halina's mother decided to send her back to Krakow to work in the camp so that she could be with her siblings. Silber later discovered that the village had been surrounded and all Jews deported the day after she left. Soon after, Halina was chosen to work for Schindler, and labored in both factories from 1943 until liberation. Her mother and other family members were murdered at the Belzec extermination camp.
Ela Weissberger appeared in a Nazi propaganda play for the American Red Cross – she was the cat character in Brundibar. Ela told of being forced out of public school in 1939, and the family's deportation to Terezin. Most children who appeared in the play were deported to death camps right after the American Red Cross had left, but Ela was allowed to remain at Terezin because her mother worked as the camp's agriculture specialist, and considered to be of some value to the Nazis. Ela located a friend who spent time at Terezin with her, Helga Weissova whose works as a child artist of the Holocaust are exhibited throughout the world, and she also presented her works to the group at Holland & Knight.
For these reasons, we light 11 candles at the Holocaust Awards event each year, and reflect how we must cherish not only our own families, but on human life as a whole.