Holocaust Commemoration Serves as Reminder to 'Never Forget'
Annual event at Teaneck High School featured author, professor and historian Deborah Lipstadt
At Thursday’s 32nd Annual Holocaust Commemoration, family, friends and members of the community repeated a promise to the Holocaust survivors in attendance that they would never let the world forget about the murder of 6 million Jews.
The Teaneck Holocaust Commemoration Committee, a division of the Jewish Community Council of Teaneck, hosted the event, which featured a candle-lighting ceremony with survivors, their children and grandchildren, and the reading of the names of those who perished in the Holocaust.
Committee officials describe their event as the largest in Bergen County because it attracts about 1,000 people.
Amy Elfman, vice president of the Jewish Community Council of Teaneck, said the presence of the crowd gathered at Teaneck High School shows a commitment to keeping alive the memory of those who perished.
“This event brings together more members of our community than any other single gathering and demonstrates our collective resolve to stand together and mourn together,” she said.
Guests in the audience included U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell, State Sen. Loretta Weinberg, Mayor Mohammed Hameeduddin, Superintendent of Teaneck Schools Barbara Pinsack, and members of the Teaneck Council and Teaneck Board of Education.
Hameeduddin read a proclamation from the Township of Teaneck to recognize the week of April 15-22 this year as days of remembrance in memory of the victims of the Holocaust. He also announced to the crowd that Councilman Yitz Stern, who was in attendance, was just named to the state's Commission on Holocaust Education by Gov. Chris Christie.
“I find it hard to express or do justice in words that which is always said at these events – that we should never forget,” Hameeduddin said. “And when I say we should never forget, I don’t just mean the Jewish community. Whether you’re Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist or atheist, we should never forget. And in that same breath, we should also – regardless of the stature of the individual or the position that that individual holds – always confront Holocaust deniers.”
Hameeduddin concluded by acknowledging and supporting a movement to have a Holocaust memorial be built somewhere in Teaneck.
“It’s something that we all should get behind as a community,” he said. “So that we should remember and never forget.”
MASTERMIND BEHIND THE DEPORTATIONS
The main speaker for the night was internationally recognized author, professor and historian Deborah Lipstadt, who is Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish History and Holocaust Studies at Emory University and author of “The Eichmann Trial,” and other books that focus on the topic of Holocaust denial.
Lipstadt said she attends many Holocaust Commemoration events across the U.S. “But I know of no other community that does it as well and has such a response and such a turnout and a cross-community representation as you do here in Teaneck,” she said.
Lipstadt spoke about the captivating trial of Nazi Adolf Eichmann, whom she described as the chief operating officer in charge of the deportation of Jews from all of Western Europe.
“And then in the final year of the war when it was clear that the Germans had lost, he personally oversees the decimation, the destruction, the murder of much of Hungarian Jewry, and in approximately 7 to 8 weeks time, the murder of 400,000 Jews at Auschwitz,” Lipstadt explained. “He is in charge of organizing the deportations, getting them out of their homes, moving them into the camps, distributing their possessions; he is the mastermind.”
Sometime after the war, Eichmann eventually ends up in Argentina. He is later found, transported to Israel, charged with “crimes against the Jews and crimes against humanity,” and is found guilty and executed in 1962.
Lipstadt said the most striking thing about the trial was that Holocaust survivors were allowed to be witnesses.
“They told the story of the “Final Solution” in its entirety,” she said. “These people speaking in the first person singular told their story one after another after another.”
‘I OWE THEM TO COME HERE’
Prior to the main ceremony, a reception was held next door to the THS auditorium for Holocaust survivors and their families.
Felice Zimmern Stokes, of Teaneck, said it was her first time attending a gathering for survivors.
“It’s a special thing because we’re all together,” she said. “It’s a sad time, but it’s with your group, so it’s also wonderful.”
Zimmern Stokes said she was born in Germany in 1939. A year later she and her family, as well as about 5,000 others from the area, were deported to a camp at the foot of the Pyrenees.
“About seven months later, all the children – very young – were taken out again, and I was taken to something like a nursery,” she said. “Then about a year later I was hidden with a non-Jewish family for 3-1/2 years in a small town in France. It was like they were my parents, but unfortunately, my (biological) parents never made it. All of my family was taken to Auschwitz in 1942. Only my sister and I survived.”
Veronica Barta, of Teaneck, attended the ceremony with her daughter.
“I like to see the people,” said Barta, who is originally from Hungary. “It brings back some memories.”
Barta explained that she lost her parents, sister and many other relatives during the Holocaust.
“I owe them to come here,” she said.