Holocaust survivors Al Cohn and Luba Keller will share their stories during Santa Clara County's annual Holocaust remembrance ceremony next week. Keller and Cohn—both Palo Alto residents and among the last remaining Holocaust survivors in the Bay Area—vividly remember being imprisoned in Nazi concentration camps.
"It's astonishing to think of a child being in a slave labor camp," said Diane Fisher, a member of the Jewish Federation of Silicon Valley who's helping organize the event. "But that is the story they have to tell."
Every year, there's a new theme to promote discussion around the historic tragedy. This year's event, echoing the theme of an ongoing exhibit at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, is titled, "Some Were Neighbors: Betrayers, Bystanders and Protectors."
"This yearly commemoration is ultimately about the triumph of a people in a time and place where hope seemed impossible," county Supervisor Joe Simitian said. "And it's about our willingness to face up to our own human failures, as well as our achievements."
The county invites the public to attend the memorial event, which takes place late Monday afternoon in the Board of Supervisors chamber on West Hedding Street in San Jose. Parking is free in the county lot. A reception with refreshments will follow.
In addition to survivor testimonies, there will be presentations by students from Archbishop Mitty High School, a memorial candle lighting and music performed by cellist Rachel Keynton and Fisher on the piano. A poster exhibit on the history of the genocide will be on display in the breezeway of the county government center for the entire week. This year's sponsor, Supervisor Dave Cortese, will present a proclamation in honor of the memorial.
A committee that includes first and second-generation survivors helps organize the gathering, which takes place every April to coincide with Yom Ha'Shoah, Israel's day of remembrance for the approximate 6 million Jews killed by the Nazis. Communities around the world will host similar events in observance of Yom Ha'Shoah.
In the past, other genocide victims have been recognized—Rwandans, Armenians, Cambodians, Sudanese and others—in the interfaith ceremony. On Monday, the invocation will honor the memory of genocide victims in Vietnam.
"Unfortunately, we’re not very good at remembering history," Fisher said. "So it’s particularly important to recount these stories. As difficult as it is, because of the sadness, we still learn from them."
Below is a video from last year's ceremony, when Holocaust survivor Eva Maiden, author of Decisions in the Dark: A Refugee Girl's Journey spoke about her experience escaping Nazi persecution as a young girl.
WHAT: Holocaust remembrance ceremony
WHEN: 4 to 5:50pm Monday
WHERE: County Government Center, 70 W. Hedding St., San Jose
INFO: Diane Fisher, 408.357.6504 or [email protected]