In honor of today's Holocaust Remembrance Day, Holocaust History minors from the class of 2011 at Chapman University presented a Holocaust Remembrance event titled "Metaphors of Memory: A Witness Through the Arts" sponsored by the Lodzer Organization of California Thursday at 7 p.m.
Holocaust survivors, community members and college students crowded Memorial Hall to remember the history of the Holocaust and honor both those who perished and those who survived the tragedy.
"This evening we remember all those who were targeted for persecution during the Holocaust including some 6 million Jews, 1.5 million of whom were children. We honor those who survived. Memory is both fragile and strong," said Marilyn Harran, Stern Chair and Director of the Rodgers Center for Holocaust Education and the Sala and Aron Samueli Holocaust Memorial Library.
One hundred Holocaust survivors along with their family and friends, members of the 1939 Club, the Lodzer Organization and other organizations were applauded for their presence. During the event, Cantor Chayim Frenkel paid tribute to Holocaust survivors and those that perished during the Holocaust.
Four Chapman University students put together a documentary film that featured stories told by five Holocaust survivors. The main theme of the piece was relationships and how they are the strings that weave people together. After each filmed segment, students on stage performed interpretive dances while using their hand motions to sway to the rhythm of a live musical ensemble that included clarinet, cello and violins.
The documentary also expressed how relationships both torn apart or strengthened. Leon Weinstein had to give his daughter, Natasha away. He disguised his daughter's Jewish identity for her safety. In 1945, Weinstein desperately started the search for his daughter. He was eventually reunited with Natasha, whose full name is now Natalie Weinstein Gold.
The next survivor in the documentary was Max Webb, who was sent to Auschwitz in 1943, where he met a man named Nathan who became like a brother to him.
The documentary then shifted briefly to Weinstein Gold's perspective on her story, and from there to a story of a forced marriage and then finally, a love marriage.
In August 1942, Isabelle Szneer was forced to marry a Belgian citizen in order to avoid being deported. She was only 18 years old and the man she was going to marry was 82 years old. Isabelle is forever indebted to the man for saving her even though the marriage was later annulled. Years later, Isabelle had the strength to marry again, this time for love. She met Cantor Leopold Szneer, who made it through the Nazi camps but lost many of his loved ones in the Holocaust. They've been together for 64 years.
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"The Holocaust took away so many people from my family, including both my parents," said Leopold Szneer after the event.
After the documentary, music and dance, the students thanked all of the survivors including the support they received in creating the year-long project.
Rabbi Heidi Cohen from Temple Beth Sholom of Santa Ana asked survivors and the president and member of the 1939 club to light the six commemorative candles. "This single flame provides more than light to guide our way. It provides light to allow us a glimpse at ourselves. At our history. And our future."
Rev. Nancy Brink, Director of Church Relations at Chapman University, then made closing reflections to end the event.