NEW YORK (Apr. 13)
As 250 students of Jewish day schools held lighted candies, thousands of persons inside Manhattan’s temple Emanu-El and outside on Fifth Avenue recited Kaddish today for the six million Jews who died in the Holocaust. They also commemorated the 37th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising as well as the heroism of other Jewish resistance fighters during World War II.
"Those who died, all of them died with honor," Elie Wiesel, the author and chairman of President Carter’s Commission on the Holocaust, declared. "Those who fought were victims and those victims who died not fighting were heroes."
The Yom Hashoah ceremony here, which was held at the massive Reform temple for the ninth consecutive year, was one of many held in Jewish communities throughout the United States and Canada as well as elsewhere in the world. President Carter has declared this week as Holocaust Remembrance Week. Governors and mayors throughout the country have issued similar proclamations.
The major theme this year, as always, was that the Holocaust should not be forgotten and the ceremony at Temple Emanu-El, sponsored by the Warsaw Ghetto Resistance Organization (WAGRO) in conjunction with other Jewish organizations, was held under its traditional emblem that declared "Remember" in Hebrew, Yiddish and English. "Together we will carry out our promise to our dear loved ones never to forget and never to let the world forget," it was stressed by Benjamin Meed, president of WAGRO and chairman of the United Commemoration Committee.
Wiesel, also a Holocaust survivor who has described his experiences in several novels, said the survivors "knew we were left behind only…to tell the tale" of what happened to those who died.
A second major theme at this year’s ceremony was criticism of what many saw as attempts to "universalize" the Holocaust, to distort the fact that although five million non-Jews were killed by the Nazis, the uniqueness of the Holocaust was that it was an attempt to systematically exterminate the Jewish people. Wiesel and Meed noted that when they visited death camp sites last year as members of the Holocaust Commission they found concerted attempts to erase the fact that Jews had died there as Jews.
"ALL JEWS WERE VICTIMS"
Meed said he was shocked to find in Eastern Europe that there was "no sign of the former Jewish existence" except for badly kept Jewish cemeteries. He said that even worse was his discovery of the attempts to refer to the Jewish victims as citizens of the countries in which they lived and not as Jews, and this in countries which, he noted, before World War II refused recognize Jews as Poles, Hungarians or Russians.
Wiesel called this an attempt to assimilate the dead" who had never assimilated before they were murdered by the Nazis. He stressed that "only Jews were killed as Jews. "He said only the Jewish people had one million children murdered by the Nazis. "Not all victims were Jews," he declared, "But all Jews were victims." However, Wiesel added, the Holocaust is Jewish but its implications are universal." He said whatever the world does to Jews it also does to itself.
Rabbi William Berkowitz, president of the Jewish National Fund and spiritual leader of Manhattan’s Congregation B’nai Jeshurun, stressed a similar theme, "even at the risk of being misunderstood." He said the "unique" status of the six million Jewish dead is being generalized into 11 million murdered by the Nazis and "merely another attempt by men to kill other men." But, he declared, "For Jews alone was the Holocaust planned, programmed and executed."
"If we do not cry out," Berkowitz added," not only will the six million have been murdered by their enemies but the meaning of their martyrdom will be universalized by their friends." A similar plea was mode in Yiddish by Menachem Rosensaft, who was born after the war in Bergen-Belsen and represented the children of survivors.
The ceremony here also urged support of Jews still in the Soviet Union and expressed Jewish unity with the State of Israel. Meed said Jews must not only remember the past but preserve the present and future and for survivors "the future is intertwined with the security of the people of the State of Israel."
1980 IS NOT 1939
Ephraim Evron, Israel’s Ambassador to the U.S., said the European nations which appeased Hitler are now taking steps to appease the Palestine Liberation Organization which could "bring extreme danger to the State of Israel and death to its people. "But, he stressed," "1980 is not 1939." He said "we the Jewish people and the State of Israel, united together" shall see to it that Jewish life survives.
The most moving part of the ceremony come when women Holocaust survivors, dressed in black, lighted 216 candles in memory of the martyred Jews. Many in the audience wept as they did when Misha Raitzin, an emigrant from the USSR who is now a Metropolitan Opera tenor, sang EI Mole Rachamim.
In Philadelphia, where thousands gathered at the outdoor memorial ceremony held at the Monument to the Six Million Jewish Martyrs, Rabbi Alexander Schindler, president of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, said the Nazi war against the Jews was "a unique event in history, but alas, there are those who seek to complete the work Hitler left unfinished-the terrorist PLO-which boasts of slaughtering Jewish babies and which vows to purge the Jewish presence from Palestine.
"It is unconscionable that this group of murderers — the Nazis of our day — should receive diplomatic recognition from Austria and India and be officially received in Spain. It is beyond belief that Britain and France should be prepared to welcome Yasir Arafat to their shores."
A special part of the Philadelphia ceremony was the presentation for the first time of a narrative script an aspects of the Holocaust by Prof. William Kusbner, chairman of the department of arts and communications at Glassboro (N.J.) State College.
In Chicago, the annual community wide memorial service was held at the Spertus Museum of Judaica. The Association of Children of Holocaust Survivors has scheduled a series of programs throughout the week at the Bernard Horwich Jewish Community Center in Chicago and the Mayer Kaplan. Jewish Community Center in Skokie. The Boston area’s ceremony was held at Congregation Kehi###th Israel in Brookline. Various programs have also been scheduled in the area this week.