James Rosenberg – opening and closing.
Members of the Kehillah – voices of the rescuers and the rescued.

Shabbat Shalom    Thank you for joining us at the Kehilla’s Yom HaShoah Commemorative Program.

Yom HaShoah, commemorating the victims of the Holocaust. Today, we celebrate the Rescuers, and those Rescued.

Thousands of Jews were saved by people who risked their lives to rescue Jewish people that they knew, and more that they did not know.

AND, many of the Rescuers were non-Jews. And, whether a Jew or not, if a Rescuer was found out by Hitler and his henchmen, he was a dead man, as was his family.

Before I introduce you to a few Rescuers and those Rescued that survived the Holocaust, and are here with us today, I want to share a brief poem written by Primo Levi, a famous Author, Poet, and Chemist. He was a RESISTER, arrested because of his actions, and deported to Auschwitz.

These words will help you to understand his vision of the Holocaust, and set the stage for the people you will meet shortly. In his poem SHEMA, Mr. Levi attempts to redefine the traditional prayer of the Jewish people.

His poem commands a single-minded focus not on the unity of God, but on a subset of God’s creatures, people living in chaos, turmoil, and total disarray, coupled with abject poverty, despair, and hopelessness.

The poem’s last few lines represent potential curses, and they present a contemporary warning – please listen closely.

If we do not awaken, if we do not use our blessings of privilege to improve the situation of those who suffer hardship, adversity, and misery, we are denying our own power to create change. And, as such, there can be serious consequences for our failure to take action.

A poem by Primo Levi

You who live secure
In your warm houses,
Who return at evening to find
Hot food and friendly faces:

Consider whether this is a man,
Who labors in the mud
Who knows no peace
Who fights for a crust of bread
Who dies at a yes or a no.

Consider whether this is a woman,
Without hair or a name
With no more strength to remember
Eyes empty and womb cold
As a frog in winter.

I commend these words to you.
Engrave them on your hearts
When you are in your house, when you walk on your way,
When you go to bed, and when you rise.
Repeat them to your children.

THE Potential CURSES;    A  WARNING…

Or, may your house crumble,
Disease render you powerless,
Your offspring avert their faces from you.

All readings is from the the US Holocaust Memorial Museum website.

Eleanor Roosevelt

“What has happened to us in this country? If we study our own history, we find that we have always been ready to receive the unfortunates from other countries, and though this may seem a generous gesture on our part, we have profited a thousand fold by what they have brought us.”

Mrs. Roosevelt wrote this in a newspaper column supporting the Wagner-Rogers Bill, which would have allowed 20,000 Jewish children to enter the United States. Because of widespread public opposition, the bill was defeated in February 1939. From “My Day,” her syndicated newspaper column, January 23, 1939.


Sir Nicholas Winton – The Power of Good

“I mean, after all, you didn’t need any special knowledge to bring children out. You needed a lot of effort and work and initiative and dealing with authority and all that, but that was general knowledge. It wasn’t any particular knowledge.

Not like the workings of the stock exchange where you had to know how it worked and what the commissions were and what you had to do and when you had to do it and for whom you had to do it and what the price was and remember the price while you were doing something else.

It was nothing like that in dealing with children. No, it was quite different.”


In December 1938, Nicholas Winton, a 29-year-old London Stockbroker, was about to leave for a skiing holiday in Switzerland, when he received a phone call from his friend Martin Blake asking him to cancel his holiday and immediately come to Prague: “I have a most interesting assignment and I need your help. Don’t bother bringing your skis.” When Winton arrived, he was asked to help with children in the Concentration Camps, in which thousands of refugees were living in appalling conditions.

Winton organized the rescue of almost 700 Jewish children from Czechoslovakia, Czech Kindertransport (German for “children’s transport”, arranging for their safe passage and finding foster families for them in Great Britain. 

In 2003, Winton was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II for “services to humanity. October 2014, he was awarded the highest civilian honor of the Czech Republic, the Order of the White Lion.

Sir Nicholas Winton died at the age of 106.


Jerry von Halle

“When I got back to Amsterdam, I got on the phone and I called my teacher; it’s the only person I knew. Not the only person I knew, but the only person I knew who might be able to help us. And the teacher … I called him on the phone and I said, ‘Here we are. This is what happened. My father was arrested; my mother and I are here.’ And again without, without thinking for one second, he says, ‘Come right over.’

So this is 1943. We are walking clear across Amsterdam from the railroad station, and we wind up, we wind up back at Mr. In’t Hout’s home. Here again, this little, this little apartment – it’s a, it’s a city apartment – we were there and we stayed in one room. My mother and I stayed in that room for two and a half years. Never left the room. Never saw … never saw fresh air.

And it’s, it’s a strange feeling. You know even a prisoner is allowed every day to exercise.”

My father and brother were murdered in the Holocaust; mother and I survived in hiding.

Mr. Halle’s story is one of the personal histories in the Holocaust Encyclopedia, ushmm.org.


Erika Eckstut

“I remember the time in the Czernowitz ghetto when I used to take off the star from my coat, leave my ID, and go out to look for food. I was always hungry and scared. I went to a store that sold food to the clergy, because I knew my father had a priest friend who was an old schoolmate. It was easy for me to go out since I was blonde, blue eyed, and spoke German fluently.

“One day I saw a German soldier beating a man on the ground who was bleeding. The soldier was on crutches and his chest was full of decorations. He stood on one of the crutches and with the other he beat the man. I approached the soldier and in my perfect German lectured him on how wrong he was to beat a man who did not defend himself. As I was busy giving my lecture, people stood around listening.

All of a sudden a policeman touched my arm and said, ‘That will be enough little girl; let’s go home.’ “At that moment I realized, ‘I can’t go home. If I take him to the ghetto my whole family will be killed.’ So I took him to an opera singer who lived not far from the ghetto. She was, of course, a gentile. When we arrived at the door and rang the bell a beautiful lady opened the door and I said, ‘Mama.’

The policeman at the same time said, ‘Is this your daughter, Madame?’ She ignored him, and pointing a finger at me, she said: ‘I told you once, I told you twice, home and homework.’ The policeman in the meantime kept repeating his question, and, in desperation, she started hitting me in the face. It was so painful that I hardly cared what happened at this point.

Then, as if in a dream, I heard the policeman saying, ‘Keep her, keep her, just stop hitting her.’ After the policeman left, she took me inside, gave me a hug, and asked, ‘Are you from the ghetto?’

“ I have forgotten so many names from during the Holocaust, but I still remember her.” Eckstut’s family survived the Holocaust.


David Bergman

“When we arrived, I had already passed out … three out of the 150 there survived. They were all … the rest of them just lay dead. And what they did is, they picked me up … with the hands and somebody else with the legs and then they threw me in a stretcher … getting ready to take me to the crematorium. That’s where they took … that’s where their objective was. And somehow… somebody who was carrying me noticed a hand moving, that I was still alive.

So at a risk to his life, he took me into a barracks. It was actually like a shower room. And I was dazed at that time, virtually, I had no idea. … And when I came to in the bathroom there, it was … I woke up, and I … I thought I was dead. It was like I was in another world. ‘What are these people doing here? Where am I?’ And I thought, I … I … I was totally dazed. I couldn’t figure out even where I am.

And then somebody came over and told me what happened, explained to me that ‘You were just a few seconds away from being thrust into the crematorium, and they saw that you were still alive.’ They said, ‘You’re the first youth that age who actually made it alive.’ And then they took me and they hid me, you know, secretly in their barracks. So I was not even supposed to have been there. And I became like, to them, like a hero.

That here are these fathers who said, well, if I made it then maybe their children would have made it through. And … since I didn’t get any rations, because I was … The ration was there like a piece of bread—enough to keep them alive till they were actually … were going to be taken to the crematorium. And each one would take a piece of bread they would get, break off a piece and make up a slice for me, so that I could survive. And they said, ‘David, you must survive and let the world know what happened.’”

Bergman was among 150 inmates transported to Dachau in a cattle car from another concentration camp; he was one of three who survived—rescued by fellow prisoners in Dachau shortly before he could be taken to the crematorium. His story is one of the personal histories in the Holocaust Encyclopedia, ushmm.org


Clara Dijkstra

“Let me tell you how Nettie came into my life. One spring day in ’42, I went to visit some friends and there was a woman there named Sylvia Bloch. She was very shaken up because early the next morning, she and her husband had to report to the Zentralstelle, the big Nazi office on the Adama van Scheltemaplein, to go to work in Germany. They had been given a chance to dive under, but the people who had offered to hide them wouldn’t let them bring their little daughter.

‘Why don’t you give her to me?’ I said. ‘I’ll take care of her.’ She looked at me with red-rimmed eyes. ‘What can I pay you to do this?’ she asked. ‘Nothing,’ I said. ‘Nothing at all.’ “She’d been almost hysterical, but now she calmed down. She left right away, saying she would bring her child to my place as soon as she could. A little while later she appeared at my front door with two-year-old Nettie. She had brought her stroller and all her clothes. When Sylvia was leaving, the child was crying ‘Mamma! Mamma!’

But after a while she settled down, and took a nap. “When my husband came home, he looked at Nettie asleep in the stroller, and said, ‘What’s this?’ ’She’s ours,’ I said. ‘I’ll take care of her; I’ll handle everything. If the Germans come, just let me do the talking.’ My mother wasn’t happy either. She said, ‘Don’t do it! Don’t do it! You worry me so!’ But I told her, ‘Mother, I love you, but it’s already done. We have a child, a Jewish child.’ Then she said, ‘Good for you.’”

Nettie’s parents survived and reclaimed her after the war, but Nettie remained close to Dijkstra throughout her life, nominating her for recognition by Yad Vashem as a Righteous Among the Nations. This passage is from The Heart Has Reasons, Mark Klempner.


In closing… 

On Yom HaShoah, please think about our Jewish brothers and sisters that we lost, coupled with the 1 to 1.5 million Jewish children that perished. And, when saying a prayer this week for them, please include all of the people that died as a result of the War. These peoples’ lives were cut short – PERIOD. No other way to say it!!!

Take a moment; please think about a WAR of this nature; let’s call it WW III, and it is happening today, on our soil, and all over the EARTH…

How would we feel about such a catastrophic event occurring in our day, our modern times? THEN, think about the fact that the period 1939 to 1945 was somebody else’s modern times – and those people faced, or perished in a nightmarish HELL.

You have seen the news reports showing the cities totally decimated… That’s why we must never forget the total destruction and loss of life; and, why we can never let it happen again…

During my research for this Commemorative Program, I found a MOST startling fact. The Total Number of Deaths attributed to WW II is somewhere between 70,000,000 and 85,000,000 people world-wide (see attached chart). I cannot even fathom a number of such significance, one that is so very large.

It is my hope that the World will never know of such death and destruction at another time. It is my prayer that the World learned from World War II, that we have no need to ever know of such atrocities, coupled with the deaths of millions upon millions of people.

Nobody needs to die needlessly, if we all work together towards peace, coupled with one another’s success on Planet Earth.