AMHERST – The Jewish Community of Amherst will hold its Yom HaShoah – Holocaust Memorial Commemoration on Sunday, April 27 from 7-9 p.m. at in the JCA sanctuary, 742 Main St. The guest speaker will be David S. Wyman, former Professor at UMass and founder of the David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies.
The evening will start with a candle lighting ceremony honoring the Righteous Among the Nations who helped save Jewish children and others. Members of the JCA community will light candles in the name of family relatives who perished in the Holocaust.
The candle lighting will be followed by the documentary film, “One Flight For Us.”
HOLYOKE – The Holyoke Holocaust Commemoration will take place Wednesday, May 7 at 6:45 p.m. at the Holyoke Senior Center on Pine Street. The program will include a talk by Anita Schorr, a Holocaust survivor who was an inmate at three concentration camps. The event is open to the public.
SPRINGFIELD – Springfield’s Holocaust Memorial Observance will take place Sunday, April 27, at 7 p.m. at Temple Beth El, 979 Dickinson St. The program, led by Rabbis Amy Wallk Katz, Max Davis and Mark Shaprio, will include a candle-lighting ceremony and dramatic reading of the Shoah Scroll – a moving literary work of prayer, poetry, prose and music.
The event is sponsored by Springfield Jewish Community Center and the Jewish Federation of Western Massachusetts with support from the William and Lynn Foggle Fund for Holocaust Education Zachor Fund of the Jewish Endowment Foundation.
For more information, contact Jeff Rembrandt at (413) 739-4715.
WESTBOROUGH – Central Massachusetts’ Yom Hashoah Commemoration, will feature guest speaker Dr. Maxim Shrayer, on “Jewish-Russian Poets as Witnesses to the Shoah.”
The commemoration will be held Sunday, April 27 from 4-5:30 p.m. at Beth Tikvah Synagogue, 45 Oak St.
The program will include a lighting of memorial candles by Holocaust survivors and the Second Generation; Holocaust liturgy, and presentation of the 7th annual Yom Hashoah essay and art contest winners.
The program is sponsored by Beth Tikvah, Congregation Beth Israel, Congregation B’nai Shalom, Temple Emanuel Sinai, the Strassler Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies and the Jewish Federation of Central Mass.
As survivors pass, Holocaust memoir genre braces for significant transformation
By Jeffrey F. Barken/JNS.org
As the generation of Holocaust survivors passes, writers and researchers acknowledge the urgent need to ask probing questions and preserve fading memories. Moving forward, in the absence of firsthand accounts, survivors’ descendants will need to assume responsibility for educating future generations about the genocide.
In the modern era of self-publishing, the market for Holocaust literature has been glutted with personal accounts of horror, survival, hope, and despair, establishing a complicated legacy. Yet not every survivor finds the words or strength necessary to tell his or her story publicly. Likewise, many children of survivors struggle throughout their lives to understand their parents’ scars.
“Most grew up with the Holocaust as a silent, dark mystery,” Dr. Jerry Jennings, a clinical psychologist who has published three Holocaust memoirs on behalf of survivors, tells JNS.org. “They were denied the truth of what deeply shaped their parents’ and their own upbringing and they have strong emotions about touching a subject that was explicitly or implicitly forbidden by the parent.”
This communication gap may inhibit future generations from embracing and understanding Holocaust history. With so little time left, Jennings encourages younger generations to record their aging relatives’ stories. “There is untold value in getting the names and hometowns of family and friends in the ‘old world’—uncles, cousins, grandparents, et cetera,” he explains. Every detail counts.
The methodology that Jennings utilizes to transcribe his subject’s memoirs underscores the importance of meticulously collecting all available evidence. Jennings interviewed survivors Stella Yollin, Sol and Goldie Finkelstein, and Ida Hoffmann for his trilogy of books entitled “Stella’s Secret,” “I Choose Life,” and “Darkness Hides the Flowers.” He notes, “The goal of research is not to confirm or verify [survivor] stories, but rather to put their individual stories in the broader historical context.”
The task of correlating oral testimony with existing records requires patient listening and careful attention to specific names, dates, and places. Inconsistencies in a survivor’s story are not roadblocks. On the contrary, Jennings’s work reveals that the process of inquiry can lead to exciting discoveries, almost always resulting in a clearer picture of events.
“Sol insisted that during his time at Mauthausen Concentration Camp, he was a forced laborer in a cave that built [V2] rockets,” Jennings says, recounting one instance when the oral record he was transcribing did not match up with known facts. “For Sol’s story to be true, he would have been 500 miles away in a different camp and [working in] a different year.”
To reach into Sol’s murky memory for the missing clues, Jennings employed a unique strategy. He asked simple yet detailed questions like “How did you get from here to there?” and “What was the weather like that day?” That technique prompted the speaker to enlarge upon the day-to-day reality of his situation and experience. “Ultimately, Sol’s story was completely accurate,” Jennings says. “We found the subterranean sub-camp in the location and year that he said, but it was under a different name than the one used by Sol and the prisoners.”
Jennings’s trilogy is comprehensive. Instead of only relating his subject’s survival stories, he prompts them to reflect on their lives before and after the war. Omitting this information “was a disservice and even a distortion of the complete truth,” says the author.
“We need to know how the survivors lived before the war in order to fully appreciate the magnitude of what they lost, and we need to know how they rebuilt their lives after the war to appreciate the compassion and hope that rose from the ashes of the crematoriums,” he says.
Reflecting on these grim stories induced an emotional healing process for Jennings’s subjects, one he says was challenging at first, but immensely rewarding in its culmination. Finally, publication of this series provided a permanent record of each survivor’s personal triumph.
“Our books and DVDs are top quality, always professional and bearing a message of hope,” Beach Lloyd’s manager, Joanne Silver, tells JNS.org. Like all publishers in today’s rapidly changing industry, however, Beach Lloyd’s educational goals are threatened by financial realities that could impair access to quality Holocaust resources.
“We cannot continue the expense of large exhibits and travel,” Silver says. “It’s not the materials. It’s the [small] size of the niche and the fact that public schools are financially strapped and cannot buy the materials.”
The legacy of the Holocaust includes themes of anger, frustration, forgiveness, courage, and achievement, evoking strong lessons that must provide a moral compass to future generations. But “genocides continue, deniers are still heard, and the Holocaust slips into history,” says Silver, underscoring the need to continue educating youths and adults about intolerance.
As Holocaust survivors pass, the genre of literature that will preserve their memories is poised to undergo a significant transformation. Silver advises, “This history should be embraced with great respect and with the conviction that one person, by being an upstander, can make a difference.” She anticipates a new dialogue emerging in which survivors’ stories are combined with second-generation accounts, and additional commentaries by noted Holocaust historians are woven into the texts.