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New York City Council Adopts Resolution Urging City to Establish a Holocaust Memorial Center

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The City Council adopted a resolution Tuesday calling on the city to establish a Holocaust memorial center. The Committee on Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs had first approved the resolution which was sponsored by Council member Susan Alter of Brookyn. At a meeting of this committee Monday, some dozen individuals testified in support of the resolution.

George Klein, co-chairman of the New York City Holocaust Memorial Commission, described the proposed memorial as an expansion on “the largest concentration of Jewish scholarly resources outside of Jerusalem that deal directly with the Holocaust.”

More than 17 area universities offer courses on the Holocaust and several dozen collections of Holocaust-related materials already reside in New York. The city Holocaust center, Klein said, will catalog those resources, thus providing a central access point for students of the period.

Klein pointed out that “to make certain that the lessons of the tragedy are not lost, and to ensure that its impact on history is never diminished,” Mayor Edward Koch appointed the New York City Holocaust Memorial Commission in 1982 “with the responsibility for the establishment of a permanent Holocaust museum and education center that will be a living memorial. “Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau is the Commission’s co-chairman.

URGES HISTORICAL AUTHENTICITY

Rochelle Saidel, author of “The Outraged Conscience: Seekers of Justice for Nazi War Criminals in America,” and Special Assistant to New York State Senate Minority Leader Manfred Ohrenstein, urged at the Committee on Parks hearing that the city should establish a Holocaust center that will “tell the story of the Holocaust and related issues in an historically authentic way. I am concerned that future generations will know the Holocaust only as a television soap opera or detective story.”

Saidel pointed out that “We have reached a point where the Holocaust is being trivialized, fictionalized, minimized, abused, distorted, politicized and commercialized. To counter this, we need an authentic center, which will place the Holocaust in historical perspective for future generations.”

Ohrenstein is an associate chairman of the New York City Holocaust Memorial Commission and founding chairman of the Board of the New York State Holocaust Memorial Center.

Former New York Congressmen Herbert Tenzer said at the hearing that a Holocaust memorial center should tell the story of the murder of six million Jews and also of the millions of other civilians who lost their lives at the hands of the Nazis. He said a center was necessary “because the records in this memorial, and the museum connected with it, will be available to students, to scholars, to researchers, to psychologists.”

Tenzer added that an understanding of “the most tragic period in the history of the world” and of Nazi psychology, culture and character will make “genocidal killing” less likely in the future.

Others who presented testimony before the committee included Brooklyn District Attorney Elizabeth Holtzman who, as Congresswoman, led efforts in Congress on the Nazi war criminal issues; Judge Simon Rifkind, retired federal judge; Rabbi Judah Nadich of the Park Avenue Synagogue, who was an Army chaplain with U.S. troops liberating Dachau; Ernest Michel, executive vice president of the United Jewish Appeal/Federation of New York and a Holocaust survivor.

Also, Prof. Henry Feingold, author and Holocaust scholar; Dr. Alvin Schiff, executive vice president of the New York Board of Jewish Education; Benjamin Meed, president of the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors and of the Warsaw Ghetto Resistance Organization; Herbert Rickman, special aide to Mayor Koch; Brooklyn Borough President Howard Golden; Menachem Rosensaft, Second Generation leader; and Bernard Wachsman, representing City Council President Carol Bellamy.

In explaining his affirmative vote in the City Council for the resolution to establish a Holocaust memorial center, Council member Rev. Wendell Foster of The Bronx, a Congregationalist minister, said that the only genocide worse than that of the Nazis against the Jews was that of the Black slavery traffic to this country.

Foster said he hoped the Holocaust memorial would serve as a symbol of man’s inhumanity to man, and would warn against the polarization of people of different races and religions.

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