2014-04-11 / Community

Temple Beth-El Holds Remembrance Ceremony

On Sunday evening April 27, Temple Beth-El will hold a Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) ceremony at 201 Beach 121st Street at 7 p.m. The temple is inviting the entire Rockaway community to attend.

Congress established the Days of Remembrance as the nation’s annual commemoration of the Holocaust to be led by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC. The Museum has designated “Confronting the Holocaust: American Responses” as this year’s theme. Days of Remembrance observances are being held in communities around the country during the week beginning April 27.

“The 2014 Days of Remembrance provide an opportunity to reflect on the relevance of two important events in Holocaust history: the refugee crisis in the spring of 1939 and the deportation of Hungarian Jews five years later," Kristine Donly, the Museum’s Director of National Planning noted. "The American responses to these pivotal moments hold lessons for us today as we remember the past and seek to prevent future genocides.”

In May 1939, the American press brought attention to the plight of more than 900 refugees—almost all of them Jews fleeing Nazi persecution—aboard the St. Louis, a passenger liner that had left Hamburg, Germany, bound for Cuba. Those on board had landing permits to enter Cuba, but a Cuban law invalidated them before the ship arrived. The St. Louis sailed along the coast of Florida, within sight of the lights of Miami, while those on board desperately sought permission to land in the United States. Denied refuge, the pascontinued sengers were forced to return to Europe, where nearly one-third died during the Holocaust.

In 1942, after the United States had entered World War II, the US government received official reports of the “Final Solution,” the Nazi plan to kill all European Jews, and by the spring of 1944, American newspaper articles told of “huge gas chambers arranged for mass murder.” News about the annihilation of European Jews spurred some Americans to take action to help save the last large Jewish community still intact in Central Europe—in Hungary. The War Refugee Board, created by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in early 1944, attempted to save Jews from Hungary and elsewhere from deportation and death at Auschwitz-Birkenau. Today the board is credited with saving some 200,000 lives, including tens of thousands of Jews in Budapest, even though its leader, John Pehle, summarized its impact as “late and little.”

“These examples from the Holocaust encourage reflection on contemporary cases of genocide, particularly as we mark the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide this year,” Donly said. “As long as genocide remains a threat, we must continue to ask ourselves about the consequences of action—and of inaction.”

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