This past Sunday was a day of remembrance for many communities in Charleston. The annual “Daffodil Project” that honors the 1.5 million children that were victims of the Holocaust took place.
A senior at the College, Samantha Karantz, whose great-grandfather was a survivor of the Holocaust, helped run and organize the event in collaboration with five programs on and off campus. This event focused on the significance of rescue and on Holocaust education.
The event took place in the Jewish Studies building on the College’s campus. The crowd was so large that the walls were brimming with standing people and the second floor had to take the overflow. The students who helped plan the event began to hand out daffodil pins, which were in the shape of the Star of David–a symbolic moment that helped connect the crowd to its organizers.
One of the most rememberable moments was when Joe Engle graced the stage with his somehow humorous, yet serious narrative. His story began with the telling how his family of 150 and only four survived by the end of it all.
It was a story where voyages of ships that carried 937 Jews were all denied access in ports of Cuba, England and the United States. A story where Engle jumped out of a moving train that headed for the death march; an attitude of ‘if I do not survive then I do not have to suffer.” Surviving, but suffering still, Engle made survived the jump by digging foxholes in the frozen ground with his bare hands.
The intensity of such stories ebbed by the introduction of Emily Kurzweil, a sophomore at the College, who wrote and sang “We remember.”
Rose Goldberg had a tale that is nearly unbelievable., Her daughter, Anita Zucker, was there to tell the heroic story of her mother and family. The story began with the 1942 raids of the ghettos in which Rose’s family lived, eventually leading to the 1943 cleansing of the remaining Jewish ghettos; neighborhoods filled with 35,000 jews and only 200 surviving.
Rose’s story continues by narrowly escaping the capture by falling and hiding under a straw mattress. She dressed herself in rags and found her 18-month-old niece named Wanda, the beginning of many stories in which two children lost everything.
The only way that Rose and Wanda found survival was by finding other children who suffered their same fate. They somehow survived by strange fates and were able to return to their homes once the war was over; homes that were nothing but shells and carcasses of what once existed.
The education given by these survivors did not cease, but continued on with Ann Fields. Fields was not raised Jewish and neither was her family. She was simply condemned by the nature of their last name, a “death sentence” as Fields puts it.
By the next morning of Hitler’s early reign, German soldiers came and occupied her neighborhood. Her mother tried to flee, but got caught along the way. Heartbreak began to flow over the crowd as Fields describes the documentation she found of her mother’s administration into the camp and the gas chamber in which she was killed.
Fields’s describes her survival as “absolutely silly” because she cannot explain how she made it. She continues her story by explaining “what you go through when you don’t belong.” A life that eventually leads to being on the run — running into those who only wished to hurt her. Field’s described a scene in which some German officers found her and took her in.
The audience did not expect what Fields said next: the whole thing was her “introduction to womanhood.” The men and women in the crowd physically felt the landing of what she meant by that. Sexual assault by the most violent degree by people who despised her but ended up letting her walk out the next morning.
Stories of the fascism that erased millions of people from the globe is a horror that the whole world still deals with today. These stories are the things that the world should never forget because they remind every one of the evil that mankind can create. An evil that, quite possibly, everyone will have to fight again.
Charleston mayor, John Tecklenburg, attended the event with some strong things to say. He has the hopeful news that last Tuesday the city of Charleston became the first city in South Carolina to pass a hate crime ordination. A timely thing to pass in recent events of the synagogue shooting in Pittsburg. Tecklenburg ended his speech by telling the crowd that “we are sending a message that we will not tolerate hate” and that “we must also change people’s hearts.”
Hopefully, by continuing the education of the Holocaust and planting the daffodils, the roots of hatred will rot and the love can begin to grow again.