Regardless of how much time has passed since World War II and the Holocaust, it is a subject that is still frequently addressed through various events, including lectures, as people continue their efforts to educate others about what happened and pay tribute to those who were killed.
There are many survivors in Queens who keep their stories alive by speaking to classes. The Harriet and Kenneth Kupferberg Holocaust Resource Center and Archives at Queensborough Community College has a speakers’ bureau to arrange for survivors to speak at schools and other locations. Some groups are also brought to the center for presentations.
“I think that future generations have to know that this happened,” said center volunteer Esther Katz, who came to the United States during the war. “Even though we have everything on video and on tape, today there are still too many people who say this never happened. We have to show them that it did so it never happens again.”
Holocaust survivor and Fresh Meadows resident Hanne Liebmann speaks at schools, trying to impart upon students things such as what a dictatorship can do to people and how hate can destroy a person.
“I think they need to be told about the Holocaust,” Liebmann said. “They need to be told that they have to cherish their democracy, to participate.”
After attending a world gathering of Holocaust survivors in Jerusalem in 1981, Inge Auerbacher also began lecturing about her experiences. She travels not only throughout the United States but also addresses children during visits to Germany.
“I go to Germany for reconciliation, not to forgive, but as a teacher of good will,” said Auerbacher, an author of several books who resides in Jamaica.
Another survivor, Ruth Turek, said, “I talk to younger generations to prevent this from happening again, because once it happens it takes on a life of its own. It can happen anywhere to any population.”
Throughout the Borough of Queens there are also lectures held by various organizations where the Holocaust is the focus. Experts, authors and other knowledgeable individuals address the subject, further bringing to light what happened.
“You have to be emotionally prepared to go through it otherwise it’s just a horror story,” Queensborough Community College Holocaust Resource Center Director Dr. Arthur Flug said of learning about the Holocaust and teaching it to students.
Various events during the year are also held to memorialize what happened as the world tries to fulfill the words “never forget,” which are frequently used when talking about the Holocaust and its many victims.
For the Holocaust survivors, the many lives lost are a constant memory. Those lives are recognized each year during Yom Hashoah, the Holocaust Remembrance Day, which fell on May 1 this year.
In honor of Yom Hashoah, there were several events held in Queens. On April 29, two local survivors, Claire Leder and Lillyan Rosenberg, were recognized during a remembrance event at the Free Synagogue of Flushing.
“Our richness is in the history of Flushing and also in the richness of the individual histories we have,” Queens Councilmember John Liu said. He continued, “Every year that we do this there are more and more stories of the real life experience and the ordeals people have gone through.”
The citations that Liu presented the survivors read, “As duly elected members of the New York City Council we recognize that in these two individuals we have outstanding citizens, those who are worthy of the esteem of both the community and the great city of New York.”
At the memorial at North Shore Towers in Floral Park, residents lit candles in honor of the six million Jews who were killed. They also lit 15 smaller candles to represent the 1.5 million children included in that figure.
During an invocation given by Rabbi Michael Klayman of the Lake Success Jewish Center, he spoke of the importance of survivors sharing their stories.
“I will never fully appreciate how difficult it must be to share these stories, which could never fully explain experiences which are beyond description,” Klayman said. “But I ask that you continue to speak to us, speak to your children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren…”
Klayman also recognized the strength of those who were able to survive the Holocaust.
“Tonight we memorialize the dead but honor all the survivors,” he said. “I believe their mere act of living is an act of courage. May our young people learn the true meaning of life through you and your stories.”