600 Gather to Recall Lessons of the Holocaust
For Jona Goldrich, even the most painful moments in human events have much to teach future generations. And so this survivor of the Holocaust has become a chronicler of the past, to ensure that the suffering of his family and his people are never forgotten.
“I’m obsessed with the Holocaust,” Goldrich says. “This is something that happened only 66 years ago, and the next time it might not be the Jews.”
On Sunday Goldrich, 78, and more than 600 others, many fellow survivors, gathered at the Los Angeles Holocaust Monument in Pan Pacific Park to remember and vow, “Never again.”
The event was part of Holocaust Remembrance Day, held each year to honor the more than 6 million Jewish men, women and children who perished in Europe at the hands of the Nazis during World War II.
Under overcast skies, the ceremony featured prayers, songs and remarks by several dignitaries, including former U.S. Ambassador Dennis Ross and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.
The event’s theme was the Nuremberg trials -- the war crimes tribunals held after the war ended.
Villaraigosa noted that those tried were the heads of the Nazi Party, that they plotted the occupation of other countries, established slave labor camps and articulated an ideology of racial hatred.
Twelve were sentenced to death.
Many had offered the defense that they were just following orders, and therefore not liable for the death and torment their actions engendered.
“The ultimate justice in the verdicts at Nuremberg lies in the rejection of this defense and in the affirmation of the idea that we all, each and every one of us, is accountable as human beings,” Villaraigosa told the crowd, to applause.
Ehud Danoch, the Israeli consul general in Los Angeles, spoke of the survivors and the difficulties of understanding their pain.
“There are no adequate words in the language to describe the attempted annihilation of an entire people,” Danoch said. “All of us here are humbled by their presence. They are living proof that the Jewish spirit is invincible.”
Several speakers addressed modern-day threats to Israel.
Others raised more recent atrocities, such as the current conflict in the Darfur region of Sudan, where as many as 400,000 people are believed to have died in ethnic strife.
“The only way to truly honor the victims of the Holocaust is to act to stop what is happening in Darfur,” said state Assemblyman Paul Koretz (D-West Hollywood), who has sponsored legislation to prohibit investment of state pension money in Sudan. “We must take personal responsibility about this tragedy by talking to our family and friends and contacting our representatives.”
After the remarks, participants gathered at the Holocaust Monument in the park, made up of six 18-foot-high triangular columns of polished black granite, meant to evoke a crematorium, inscribed with information about the Holocaust era. Here they lighted a “flame of memory.”
This week, thousands of schoolchildren will descend on the site to take part in Holocaust services, said Goldrich, who is chairman of the monument organization.
Originally from eastern Poland, in what is now Ukraine, he lost almost his entire family, his village, the friends he went to school with, during the Holocaust.
At 14, he and a younger brother fled to Hungary before eventually immigrating to the United States.
For Goldrich, sharing the voices and stories from the past with children is his most important mission.
“We’re not teaching enough in the schools,” he said. “The only way to preserve this legacy is to have it taught as a part of history in schools.”