We visited with survivor Gabriella Karin at her home. Her story and her art converged into a memorable occasion.
Thursday morning started early, with a trip to the home of Gabriella Karin, who survived the Holocaust by living in a convent for three years and hiding with her family in an abandoned apartment building nearby the Gestapo headquarters in Bratislava, Czechoslovakia. Gabriella who was recovering from surgery, invited us into her home and told the story of a German man who helped her family by assisting them in their hiding - he fed them, brought her books, and is remembered by Yad Vashem for his righteousness. Gabriella is an accomplished artist whose works have been featured in Holocaust museums - her work is in memory of the children who did not survive the Holocaust; she showed the group a picture of a birthday party where each child, except for herself, had been murdered in the Holocaust.
It was difficult to leave Gabriella, but we had a good reason. We were off to meet Zenon Neumark at the offices of Bet Tzedek. Mr. Neumark is the author of Hiding in the Open, and told his story of fearful hiding, escapes from camps, and the joy of liberation. Mr. Neumark spent time answering numerous questions of the students and teachers, and signed his book for each of us.
Lunch came next, and our group was treated by the owners of the legendary Los Angeles Pinks for a delicious lunch. We sat in the back, under umbrella tables, enjoying our hot dogs and the California sun.
After lunch, we headed to another Los Angeles landmark, The Grove, and to Barnes & Noble for a meeting with Professor Carl Auerbacher, whose service in World War II included the liberation of many Nazi concentration camps - he too was an eye witness to the Holocaust. The group listened carefully as this fine gentlemen explained what it was like to be an American soldier viewing the walking dead for the first time.
After all of these testimonies, the group took some time to stroll through The Grove, just before the big evening of the 16th Annual Holocaust Remembrance Awards Dinner.
Then it was back to the Residence Inn to get dressed for the Skirball Center, the venue for the Awards Dinner, and into the bus for a ride in Los Angeles's famed Thursday afternoon traffic!
The Master of Ceremonies for the evening was actor and humanitarian Glynn Turman. Mr. Turman opened the evening reflecting upon the voices of denial of the Holocaust, the massacres of the American Indians, the struggle of African Americans to gain real freedom. Such voices made us realize what had brought us to the Skirball that evening.
Jerry Levine opened the evening with a congratulations to his office for its excellence in preparing not only for the event that evening, but for the entire week's activities for the students and teachers. Los Angeles Council Members Jan Perry and Paul Krekorian followed, giving a welcome to Los Angeles, and expressing their admiration for Holland & Knight's commitment to Holocaust Education. The presented Mayor Villaraigosa's Proclamation for Holland & Knight from the City of Los Angeles. Earlier, Councilmember Paul Krekorian brought beautifully crafted awards for each student, and congratulated each personally. Paul Krekorian also took the time to congratulate a third place winner in the audience, Meghmic Hacopian.
Rabbi Grinblat delivered a moving invocation, after the candle lighting ceremony where students and Holocaust survivors and a survivor of Rwanda, lit 12 candles for 11 million victims of the Holocaust, and victims of recent victims of genocide worldwide. After dinner, Holland & Knight was honored to have Jacob Coin (Hopi) offer the American Indian perspective of the Holocaust - a speech many will remember and reference for years to come.
The thoughtful and moving key note speech by Dr. Stephen D. Smith, Executive Director of the USC Shoah Institute hushed the room again, as the scholar incorporated the text of each essay into his speech. We are so very grateful for Dr. Smith's interest in the Holocaust Remembrance Project's students and essays. Many of the students told us how special they felt when their words were spoken in this key note speech.
The ten first-place winners of the 2010 Holocaust Remembrance Project were called up to the stage by Managing Partner Stephen Sonberg, and awarded with a medallion which was presented by Holocaust survivor Daisy Miller of the USC Shoah Institute. All of the students are top rated scholars, and destined for much good in our world. The evening continued to the three special scholarships:
The Janis and Philip D. Schiff Family Community Service Scholarship was awarded by Janis's cousins, Daniel Granof and Lynn Shauger. The recipient was Donald Mayfield Brown.
The Tiedemann Family Righteous Among Nations Scholarship was awarded by Michael Abel who traveled to the event with his daughter Hannah. Michael awarded the Tiedemann Family's scholarship to Sara Brenner.
Chair of the Holland & Knight Charitable Foundation and partner, Marie Lefere, came to stage to award the D. Burke Kibler III Scholarship in memory of the late Holland & Knight partner whose service in World War II included the liberation of camps, and who returned to his hometown in Central Florida to apply the lessons of the Holocaust to his own law practice and community service. The recipient of the award was David Cain Day, who then read his essay, "The Guys for all to hear.
Afterwards, Marie reflected upon Holland & Knight's first meeting with Shoah, some years ago when Daisy Miller had contacted her in Fort Lauderdale. The relationship between Shoah and the Holland & Knight Charitable Foundation led to this evening, and she read a letter signed by Steven Spielberg, lauding Holland & Knight for its long commitment to Holocaust Education.
Ten outstanding students and five wonderful educators brought the community together that night. Indeed they were honored, but they were also assigned with a duty to hold the testimonies they heard over the week and share them at every opportunity. The lessons of the Holocaust cannot be left in the annuls of history - they are for today.
We leave the Skirball knowing that we had one more day, and three more survivors to meet.
Dr. Smith, Field Brown, Sara Brenner, and Cain Day.