Today Is International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Here's How Southern Californians Are Reflecting
Yona Nadelman was 5 years old when she and her family were forced to flee their home in Poland after Nazis invaded. Her father bought a horse and buggy, and the family headed east. She recalls her father saying their goal was to "get as far away from Hitler as we can."
Nadelman joined our newsroom's public affairs show AirTalk — which airs on 89.3 FM — on Thursday to share her story of survival ahead of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which the world observes on Friday, Jan. 27, marking 78 years since Red Army soldiers liberated the Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz.
Why It Matters
The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum estimates at least 6 million Jewish men, women and children were killed by Nazis and their collaborators during the era of the Holocaust. There are also countless others whose remains were never found and whose names are lost to history. As the U.S. Holocaust Museum's website notes, "no one master list of those who perished exists anywhere in the world."
Guy Lipa, president of the board of the Holocaust Museum L.A., said institutions like his are crucial to ensuring that the stories and spirits of those who survived, and those who didn't, live on through history.
"So really we try to empower our visitors, many of which are students, to stand up against hatred, bigotry, antisemitism — and just root out hatred, really create a culture of kindness and empathy," he said, emphasizing the need to ensure that future generations remember the lessons of the Holocaust so it is never repeated.
Listen To The Conversation
A Survivor's Story
After fleeing Krakow, Yona Nadelman says her family eventually encountered Russian soldiers in a part of Poland that was occupied by Russia, and her parents were arrested and taken to Siberia. She and her remaining family were sent to live in a ghetto.
An uncle was able to get papers for her and her cousin, Gaby, and they were sent to live as Christian children on a farm until the war ended. It was Nadelman's job to make sure that no one discovered Gaby was circumcised. Eventually, Nadelman's parents adopted Gaby, and the family reunited and moved to Paris.
Nadelman eventually moved to the U.S., where she had a successful career as a fashion designer, but her memories of having to flee persecution and violence at the hands of Nazis have stuck with her. She now gives regular talks at the Holocaust Museum of L.A., many of which are to students and other young people.
"The most important thing that I want [younger generations] to understand is that we were completely powerless," she said. They wanted to kill us, and we couldn't do anything about it."
How Survivors' Stories Affect Future Generations
Guy Lipa, board president of the Holocaust Museum L.A., said as a "3G," or a third generation survivor (his paternal grandparents were both survivors), you see the effects in different ways, depending on the family.
"In my family, for example, one of the things — you never leave food. Food always gets finished or leftovers always get eaten. Food was such an issue around our house. And that's one thing that is passed through."
My family was a family that didn't really talk about it, and a lot of the specifics and the stories were lost.
One common theme during AirTalk's conversation Thursday was the difference in how survivors chose to share their experiences with family members, and how their decision affected future generations who wanted to know their stories.
"My family was a family that didn't really talk about it," Lipa said, "and a lot of the specifics and the stories were lost. And one of the things that we strive to do at the museum is to ensure that the stories and the history — the people who perished and those who survived — those stories are not lost."
A woman named Carol, who lives in Northridge, said her family was similar.
"My mother never got over the guilt and she never talked about it. In fact, if she did talk about it, she lied. And as a child growing up, when your parents lie about something like that, it makes it hard to believe anything they tell you," she said.
Renee in Long Beach said her mother survived four concentration camps. Now, she feels it's her obligation to make sure these stories are not forgotten.
"I feel as a second generation person, a very strong need to speak out as well and to make sure that something like this doesn't happen again," she said. "Really, because as much as I love people like Yona [Nadelman] for speaking out, I know they can't bear this burden by themselves."
How Can I Be A Part Of The Remembrance?
There are a handful of events taking place around Southern California through the weekend in observance of International Holocaust Remembrance Day:
- The Mensch International Foundation will be hosting a ceremony Friday at 11:00 a.m. at Civic Center Park in Palm Desert. If you're going, bring a chair or blanket to participate comfortably.
- Holocaust Museum L.A. is hosting a talk with survivor Eva Perlman at 3 p.m. Sunday. Seating is first-come, first-served.
- The Los Angeles Jewish Film Festival presents the post-war thriller "Schächten" at Laemmle's Royal in West L.A. at 3:30 p.m. Sunday.
- The Chabad Center for Jewish Life in Newport Beach welcomes Holocaust survivor Joseph Alexander, who survived 12 concentration camps, including Dachau and Auschwitz, for a conversation at 7 p.m. Sunday.
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