Peter Feigl spoke of the Quakers and Catholic nuns who helped him survive the Holocaust.
On Thursday, the first order of business was to hear the story of Peter Feigl’s survival in the mountain village of La Chambon sur Lignon. The teachers received a DVD copy of Peter’s story that was featured in the 2005 MTV Documentary, I’m Still Here. Peter spent most of the week with us; until Thursday morning, few of us knew of Peter’s miracle.
Soon after, everyone was packed up and off to our home for the afternoon – we were guests of The Betsy Hotel where a screening of the movie Triumph of the Spirit would be presented by its director, Robert M. Young. Prior to the showing however, we were privileged to be present for a photographic presentation by the noted photographer Richard Bluestein. His photo essay on Eastern Europe’s concentration camps was a most poignant introduction to Triumph of the Spirit. Robert M. Young spoke before the film, and answered questions after the screening in The Betsy’s Hotel’s B Bar Room.
The Betsy Hotel also hosted lunch for our group, and afterwards its staff created a space at the restaurant for Olga Drucker to tell her incredible story of the Kindertransport. Nicholas Winton’s program saved her and thousands of other children, and she was a great testament to this fact. Olga reminded the group that out of all the nations of the world, it was only England that was willing to accept the Jewish children. Olga’s book, Kindertransport was given to everyone in our group, and she signed each copy.
It was not long after our beautiful morning that we made preparation for the 18th Annual Holocaust Remembrance Project Awards Dinner. Edward James Olmos was to be our key note speaker, but he bowed out and Robert M. Young offered to fill in for him. We were so pleased to have our master of ceremonies be Michael Putney senior political reporter for Miami’s Local 10 news and a columnist for the Miami Herald. Also gracing the evening was Rabbi Eliot Pearlson who asked the question we all still think of, “What are you doing here?”
Prior to dinner, each student partnered with a Holocaust survivor from our week in South Florida to light one of 12 candles of remembrance – 11 for the victims of the Holocaust, and 1 for all those who our world has lost to genocide since World War II. We think of the starving in Somalia as we think of that 12th candle. This part of the program was accompanied by the beautiful voice of Rivka Jacobs who sang a beautiful version of Aveniu Malkeinu. All of our senses were awakened by this evening – we pledged again to never forget.
After dinner, Steven Sonberg, managing partner of Holland & Knight came to the stage to congratulate the students and teachers, and to thank the survivors. He spoke of Holland & Knight’s pride in leading the Holocaust Remembrance Project for 17 full years. Following him was Shalva Ginsparg of Hollywood, Florida and winner of the 2010 Holocaust Remembrance Project. Shalva reflected on being an alumni of the Holocaust Remembrance Project, and spoke well of its impact in her life.
Soon it was time for the awarding of scholarships. Each first-place finalists came to the stage to accept his and her award from Elias Matsakis and Marie Lefere, president and chair of the Holland & Knight Charitable Foundation. The top scholarship went to Andrew Eckholm who read his essay from the podium.