As a crowd of 125 people gathered at the Canton courthouse Sunday afternoon, May 1 to begin the March of Remembrance for Holocaust Victims, a solemn reminiscence of certain horrific events of World War II were recalled, and began with the sound of the shofar, blown by Andrew Wilson and by Matthew Teel. As speakers throughout the event reminded the crowd, many survivors who lived to tell their stories, felt honor bound to tell the death-bed wishes of so many who died in concentration camps, “Don’t forget me.”
Van Zandt County Judge Don Kirkpatrick welcomed those who came from near and some from as far as Dallas, to participate in the March and subsequent gathering at the Farm Bureau.
Denise Ortega, member of the Adonai Yemaleh Zoht Messianic Jewish Synagogue in Tyler said in a private interview, “We are here to walk alongside the Jewish People, and say that we are sorry for what was perpetrated against them, and the role the United States had in that.” She further explained U.S. complacency and said that there were those in our country who knew about the atrocities being committed against the Jews in concentration camps throughout Europe, and we did not act, as we should have done. This issue was also addressed later by the keynote speaker.
We are Christians who have a special love for the Jewish people,” explained walker, Evelyn Hinds of Dallas, who teaches a class called “Loving Israel 101” at RoaringLambs.org.
Canton resident, Harold Graves said that he has a “deep compassion for the Jewish people,” and has been to Poland and visited Auschwitz and knows the terrible atrocities committed there.
Before the march began, six candles were lit to commemorate: 1) the women, young and old, who perished in the camps; 2) the children, whose young lives were snuffed out before they had a chance to live; 3) the men, who could do nothing to save themselves, their families, their friends, their neighbors; 4) the scholars and sages, the writers and artists, who created Jewish literature and learning, and established patterns of Jewish life that are no more; 5) the communities and cultures that were destroyed, the music of towns and villages no longer heard, the poetry of life gone forever; and 6) the survivors, who lived through the nightmare and began life anew, those who had the strength to reopen their wounds to share stories with later generations, and those for whom the memory was too painful to bear.
Flowers were placed in honor and memory of those righteous gentiles (non-Jews) who risked their lives to save Jewish lives, and in memory of the five million gentiles who also died at the hands of the Nazis.
After the mile long march, walkers cooled off inside the Farm Bureau and heard testimonials of Holocaust survivors and their family members. Alexandra Goode was not Jewish, but a Russian Holocaust survivor, who was taken to Dachau Concentration Camp at age 13, and made a miraculous escape from Rugen Labor Camp in May 1945. She is now 87 years old, and admonished listeners to “teach the children because a lot of people don’t believe the Holocaust even happened. We need to make sure we never let this happen again.”
Goode was the keynote speaker at last year’s March of Remembrance, and her story can be read here: Holocaust Survivor Tells Her Story at March of Remembrance.
Event Coordinator, Gary Vawter of Canton said that 1 ½ million children from two-days-old to adulthood died in concentration camps. He referred to Isaiah 56, and said that they would be given an “everlasting name.” Preparing the crowd to verbally acknowledge the names of youth who perished, he warned that it may sound chaotic, but then the Holocaust was chaos.
Prior to the crowd reading aloud names of the children, Pastor Dr. Mike Burns of Victory Church, Canton said, “Our names communicate something. It gives value to the person, but when you remove that name, it takes away their personality.” He further explained that as attendees read names, “we give humanity to all the statistics we hear. We are going to affirm today, their humanity…remember them.”
Special remarks were provided by Rose Scott, also a Holocaust survivor from Vienna, Austria. She recalled, “I was 10 years old when Hitler came in and picked up all the Jews.” Tearfully she said that one was her little friend, Marta Meyer, whom she never saw again. When she was 12 years old, she began to secretly help her uncle gather food for Jews he was hiding. “We had to be very, very careful where we met and how we met… because we were watched.”
One day, as Rose sat doing her homework at the kitchen table, the Gestapo knocked at her door, and told her she must come with them. Her parents were away from home and she protested that she must do her homework, but she was made to go with them, and they told her they would let her parents know that she was with them. They held her for three days. Closing her eyes, she said, “They tortured me in so many ways I can’t tell you.” When she returned home, her mother was angry that she didn’t tell where she was going.
A second time Rose was taken by the Gestapo, questioned and tortured four days. But this time she was not only afraid, but angry. She stubbornly refused to tell them what they wanted to know. They broke her leg to the point that her bone stuck out by her kneecap. She was fortunate not to end up in a concentration camp.
Dan and Tamar Spigel of Dallas were the keynote speakers and told of the atrocities their families suffered during the Holocaust. Dan’s mother was from Ukraine and Tamar’s mother, from Poland. The two have made a film, “House of The Generals,” to document and keep alive their family’s memory and that of others who suffered persecution. It is an historical fiction, containing truths about both of their mothers’ journeys, through the actions of one actress playing the parts that each of their mothers experienced in real life.
Tamar told of her mother’s tattoo, given on her arm when she was a child in the concentration camp. The IBM card reader number contained personal data such as name, birthdate, personal skills, where they were from, and other pertinent information that had been innocently provided in the census, which the Nazis used not only to identify people, but to dehumanize their prisoners, as they used numerical IDs only and refused to call them by name. Tamar insisted that there is now proof of the American company’s involvement with the Third Reich. Edwin Black has written a book called IBM and the Holocaust, along with an expose in The Village Voice titled, “The IBM Link to Auschwitz.”
Auschwitz, Tamar explained, was a clearinghouse, where prisoners who survived it, were shuffled on to one or more of the 44,000 plus, concentration camps throughout Nazi-occupied Europe according to their skills. At one point, Tamar’s mother sewed uniforms for women in the Nazi military. She also spent time working in ammunition factories. Survival of prisoners often depended on having valuable skills needed for use by the Nazi agenda.
After the war, Tamar’s mother was sent to a German orphanage. She escaped there and fled to what we now know as Israel, but was then called Palestine. Since there was no “Israel” the British would not allow Jews to settle Palestine, and she spent more time in a camp. There, she met and married her husband and had Tamar’s brother. Before she was finally able to go to Israel, she had spent a total of seven years in various camps from Germany to Palestine.
Through making the film, Dan Spigel said, “I got to know those relatives,” most of whom he had never met. Most of his family was in fact, murdered by the Nazis during World War II, and he has vowed to “never forget.”
To contact the March of Remembrance Coordinator, Gary Vawter, email: firstname.lastname@example.org