MC Holds Holocaust Survivor Commemoration

The room was two thirds full and the lights were dim. When the ceremony began, the audience was taken by a morbid silence.

There were eleven survivors in the front row, men and women who lived through possibly the most harrowing genocide in human history. The event was also attended by several state and county officials, members of the Montgomery County Board of Education, representatives from the offices of Congressman Chris Van Hollen and Senator Ben Cardin.

After guests were invited to view the Paul Peck Humanities Institute-sponsored  “Portraits of Life,” exhibit in the back of the room, the ceremony began with students reading short bios of an assortment of victims and survivors of the Holocaust. Despite their brevity, the stories were both fascinating and moving.

The commemoration continued with a candle-lighting ceremony, often used as very powerful symbol of life in the Jewish faith.

The audience heard from several speakers throughout the two-hour event who spoke not only about the Holocaust, but about their efforts in making Holocaust education and remembrance relevant in the community and keeping alive the memories of the few survivors still alive.

The guest speaker Bernice Steinhardt, quoted Elie Wiesel, a prolific writer and activist best known for his Holocaust related novels, who said, “Whoever listens to a witness becomes a witness.”

With those eight words, she created a sense of importance surrounding holocaust remembrance that has been lost over time and was reflected in the poor attendance of students. While young people flock to awareness campaigns for atrocities happening all over the world, they are neglecting to learn about one of the largest genocides in history.

Survivor Halina Peabody explained the connection,“Use it as a part of history and as an example of what can happen. To prevent this from happening [again] you have to educate people. There are people who have no idea what this was. And it’s not only with the Jews… It’s in Rwanda, it’s in Syria…This is what it’s about. It’s all for the future…six million we can’t bring back to life but we honor them by teaching the young people and the next generation.”