Warsaw Ghetto Uprising to be remembered on Yom Hashoah

Avril Alba

THE Sydney and Melbourne Jewish community will remember the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising when it commemorates Yom Hashoah next week.

The victims of the Holocaust and the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, which took place 70 years ago, will be remembered at Moriah College on Monday night and Masada College on Tuesday night at two events organised by the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies (JBOD).

In 1943 the Nazis began deporting the last Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto, in Poland, to the Treblinka extermination camp.

The remaining Jews fought back. Although the revolt was eventually unsuccessful, they held the Nazis at bay for a month.

Lena Goldstein, 94, who escaped the ghetto the night before the uprising, and Dr Avril Alba, Roth lecturer in Holocaust studies and Jewish civilisation at the University of Sydney, will discuss the relevance and significance of the uprising.

Goldstein will be joined on stage by future leaders of the community when youth group leaders deliver presentations and light candles in honour of the heroes of the uprising.

Righteous Among the Nations, non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews will also be remembered by representatives from the Australasian Union of Jewish Students.

Yom Hashoah commemorations will begin on Sunday morning when the Israeli Embassy in Australia’s cultural attache Einat Weiss and JBOD vice-president Jeremy Spinak speak at the Martyrs’ Memorial at Rookwood Cemetery.

The ceremony will be followed by the annual “Unto Every Person There is a Name” service, which is organised by JBOD and the Australian Association of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and Descendants, at the Sydney Jewish Museum on Sunday afternoon.

Communal leaders and community members will each read the names of people who perished in the Holocaust.

“It is appropriate to salute the extraordinary courage of the Warsaw Ghetto fighters, and it is imperative to honour the survivors of the Shoah and the six million,” JBOD chief executive officer Vic Alhadeff said.

“We strongly urge every adult member of the community to attend at least one of the four commemorative events.”

Yom Hashoah has been marked on the 27th of Nissan every year since it was established in 1953 as Israel’s national day to remember the victims of the Holocaust by then-prime minister David Ben-Gurion.

At 10am, sirens sound across Israel to mark Yom Hashoah and the country stops, including traffic, to remember the six million Jewish victims of the Holocaust.

While Yom Hashoah falls on Monday, April 8, the Jewish Community Council of Victoria (JCCV) will hold its annual commemoration tonight (Thursday), at Robert Blackwood Hall, at Monash University’s Clayton campus.

The theme, which will run through the whole program, is “70 Years After the Uprising: Voices of Warsaw and Beyond”. The traditional survivor testimony will be delivered by Maria Lewit, who was present at the uprising as a teenager. Israeli Ambassador Yuval Rotem will speak as a third generation survivor. Holocaust survivors and their families will light six candles, commemorating the six million Jewish victims.

A choir comprising students from Melbourne’s Jewish schools will sing The Partisan Song, while students from Beth Rivkah Ladies College will recite prayers and Rabbi Philip Heilbrunn will say Kaddish.

On Sunday morning, Buchenwald survivors will hold a memorial at Springvale cemetery.

On Sunday afternoon, the JCCV and the Association of Katzetlers Partisans and Fighters will hold their annual commemoration at Melbourne General Cemetery, where they will incorporate a tribute to the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.

JCCV president and Holocaust survivor Nina Bassat will speak at both this commemoration and the event tonight (Thursday).

“It unites all of [the survivors] worldwide in our memory of the people we lost. That’s the primary focus and we must never lose sight of that,” Bassat said of Yom Hashoah.

“The additional focus is the rest of the community should also remember. Zachor – remember – is the most frequent word in our Torah,” she told The AJN.

Richard Rozen, a child survivor of the Holocaust, will also address the commemoration at Melbourne General Cemetery, as will Rabbi Dovid Gutnick of the East Melbourne Hebrew Congregation.

Additionally, the Jewish Labour Bund and SKIF youth movement will commemorate the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising on April 19 at the Phoenix Theatre.

Meanwhile, the Australasian Union of Jewish Students has launched a Yom Hashoah awareness campaign across Victorian campuses, with this year’s message being “Drawing Upon the Past to Paint a Better Future”.

Jewish schools across the state will hold assemblies to mark Yom Hashoah in the new school term.

The Victoria Yom Hashoah commemoration tonight (Thursday) is at 7.45pm. For tickets, call JCCV on (03) 9272 5566 or the Jewish Holocaust Centre on (03) 9528 1985.

For more information on the NSW commemoration, contact the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies on (02) 9360 1600.

JOSHUA LEVI AND PHOEBE ROTH

Dr Avril Alba will discuss the relevance and significance of the uprising at the Sydney events.

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