NEW YORK (Apr. 17)
Thousands of Christians throughout the United States at their regular church services or at interfaith services with Jews yesterday wore arm bands with yellow stars of David to commemorate the murder of six million Jews by the Nazis during World War II. Many of them later in the evening joined millions of Americans who watched the opening three-hour segment of the four-part film "Holocaust" on NBC-TV which runs through Wednesday night.
The television network reported today that preliminary ratings on last night’s show of the film are high, according to Rabbi Marc Tanenbaum, director of interreligious affairs of the American Jewish Committee, who was a consultant for "Holocaust."
He said it received a 48 share in New York which means an estimated 6 million people watched it, a 43 share in Chicago or 2.6 million and a 43 share in Los Angeles, or 3 million viewers. The ratings were twice that for "King," NBC-TV’s recent drama on Martin Luther King Jr.
Tanenbaum said that there was an organized campaign by some German-American and Nazi groups to telephone NBC and affiliates starting at 5 p.m. yesterday to complain about the showing of the film. In addition, there was some picketing outside the NBC offices here and local stations charging that the "Holocaust" is "a hoax" or "anti-Christian." But these groups have apparently had little effect.
The start of the television film and the church services yesterday marked the beginning of more than two weeks of Holocaust memorials which will include programs on April 19, the 35th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising; April 30, when Jewish groups will observe Heroes and Martyrs Day; and May 4, Yom Hashoah Day, the Holocaust Remembrance Day on the Hebrew calendar.
THE MOST SYMBOLIC EVENT
Perhaps, the most symbolic event yesterday was in Skokie, Illinois, the target of a planned march by American Nazis. Some 2500 persons attended an open air interfaith prayer service at the Niles West High School Stadium. There were no speeches but Jewish and Christian prayers, readings and songs at the event sponsored by the Niles Township Clergy Forum. All of those who participated put on armbands with the yellow star of David.
Gov. James R. Thompson has declared the week which began yesterday as Holocaust Remembrance Week in Illinois. Residents in Skokie, which has some 40,000 Jewish residents, including 7000 Holocaust survivors, are still poised for a planned march by Nazis on Thursday, the anniversary of Hitler’s birthday, but the march is not expected to take place. However, if the march does take place, Jewish groups plan a large, peaceful counterdemonstration.
At New York’s Riverside Church, Rev. Dr. William Sloane Coffin, the senior minister, was joined by a guest speaker, Rabbi Ronald Sobel, of Manhattan’s Temple Emanu-El. There, too, the congregants wore the arm bands. Among those who attended the service was Henryk Burstein, a refugee of Nazi concentration camps, who wore the faded gray and blue striped shirt that had been his uniform at Dachau. "Gentiles need to know what the Nazis did to Jews and other people," said Burstein.
About 1000 Jews attended a commemoration of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising yesterday at the High School of Fashion here. Davia Shmulevsky, 65, a survivor of Auschwitz who had photographed atrocities at the Nazi death camp and was the first to provide the outside world visual evidence of the mass execution of Jews, said that those resisting had been successful because they refused to allow the Nazis to dehumanize them.
‘TO REMEMBER, REFLECT’
In Washington, about 50 people marched yesterday from the Luther Memorial Church to the Soviet and South African embassies in an appeal to end the current holocausts in both countries. The marchers, who included children, wore yellow stars of David.
The Rev. John Steinbruck, the church’s pastor, said that "Yosef Mendelevitch, Anatoly Shcharansky, Israel Zalmanson and countless others, in the USSR and elsewhere, are experiencing the systematic continuation of the Holocaust, the continuing terror of the Twentieth Century. It is our avowed intention to remember, reflect, and resist the contemporary pathological process, whose ancient roots are ‘religious’ and whose future promises the inevitable harvest of humanity’s enchantment with death and violence."
The groups left matzos in front of the Soviet Embassy and 40 yellow stars of David at the home of the South African Ambassador as a symbol of the martyrdom of many members of the leadership of the South African resistance movements, the most recent being Steve Biko. No one acknowledged the presence of the group at either embassy. Later, the church group was entertained by a concert of Jewish liturgical music.
At the University of Maryland in College Park, students will read the names of Holocaust victims in a program sponsored by the B’nai B’rith Hillel Foundation, The continuous reading will start tonight and continue through Wednesday evening and about 55,000 names are expected to be read during the 60 hours. Sponsors said it would take about 280 days of continuous reading to go through all of the Holocaust victims.