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‘evening of Commemoration’ Held at Assembly of the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors

April 24, 1985
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Thousands of Jewish Holocaust survivors and their families attended an “evening of commemoration” through the performing arts at the Civic Center here, as part of the threeday Inaugural Assembly of the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors.

Elie Wiesel, chairman of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council, which sponsored the commemorative evening, told the survivors that “If our testimony had been accepted as witnesses, what happened last week would not have happened.” This was an apparent reference to the controversy over President Reagan’s planned visit to the Bitburg military cemetery in West Germany where Waffen SS soldiers are buried.

“This is the beginning, if it is permitted to continue, of the rehabilitation of the SS,” Wiesel declared. “I know nobody here wants it and nobody in this country wants it. We must warn others.”

The commemorative evening formally concluded a week of national observances of the Holocaust — Days of Remembrance — that included public ceremonies in every state capital. The commemoration here included a screening of the documentary, “The Final Solution,” produced by Arthur Cohn.


The evening’s events also included a program of poems and other writings that were read by entertainment figures and news personalities. David Wyman, author of “Abandonment of the Jews, ” received sustained applause when he was introduced. He told the survivors that the Holocaust was “certainly a Jewish tragedy.”

“But it was not only a Jewish tragedy, but also a Christian tragedy, a tragedy for Western civilization and for all humankind,” Wyman said. He said the mass killings during the Holocaust were perpetrated “by people to other people while still other people stood by.”


Prior to the evening’s ceremonies, survivors and family members visited the “survivors village” at the Civic Center where survivors made use of a computer bank linked to a national registry of Jewish Holocaust survivors containing more than 55,000 names.

Amy Rothberg of the Computer Center said many survivors are “primarily interested in people who haven’t been heard from since the war.” A similar system was set up at the Jerusalem Gathering in 1981 and the Gathering in 1983 in Washington.

Survivors, with the aid of interviewers, all volunteers, filled out search forms with names of persons they are trying to locate. Some added details such as maiden names, hometowns in Europe and place of birth, Rothberg said.

Names are then inserted into the computer system using a soundex system, similar to that of the national archives, where the computer will locate names sounding similar although there may be variations in spelling. Miller, for example, may come on the computer as Mueler, Rothberg explained.

“This increases the possibilities of the search,” she said. She recalled one man who put in the search for a woman who was the childhood friend of his mother. They located her, although by that time it was too late. The man’s mother had died last year.

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