HOUSTON, TX (May 10, 2005) - Ceremonies remembering the 6 million Jewish people who died in the Nazi atrocities of the Holocaust during World War II drew more than 800 people, including hundreds of school children, while other Houstonians joined with groups from around the state to mark the anniversary at the state Capitol in Austin.
Speakers at Houston's citywide commemoration of Yom HaShoah on Wednesday, May 4, 2005 at Congregation Beth Israel reminded the crowd of the importance of not being a bystander, but rather an active participant in teaching the dangers of hatred and prejudice.
Yom HaShoah is designated as the international Day of Holocaust Remembrance. This year's theme, "The Long Wait for Freedom: Liberation from the Shoah," tied into the 60th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day and the liberation of the concentration camps.
Keynote speaker Col. Jerry Scott, a liberator of the camp at Dachau, recalled in vivid detail his thoughts as his unit first entered the camp.
"We did not know what we had come upon. We were confused," he said. "People stood shoulder to shoulder in rags. The living were there right with the dead."
Also speaking was the Honorable Yael Ravia-Zadok, consul general of the State of Israel in Houston, who urged the crowd to remember what happened and take a stand.
"This is our commitment tonight - that we never let it happen again," she said.
Holocaust Museum Houston sponsored the ceremony as part of its ongoing efforts to promote awareness of the dangers of prejudice, hatred and violence against the backdrop of the Holocaust, which claimed the lives of millions of Jews and other innocent victims. By fostering Holocaust remembrance, understanding and education, the Museum educates students as well as the general population about the uniqueness of that event and its ongoing lesson: that humankind must learn to live together in peace and harmony.
Yom HaShoah corresponds annually to the historical beginning of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising in 1943. In 1951, the Israeli Knesset formally established the date as the 27th day of the Jewish month of Nisan. On the solar calendar, that date falls between late April and early May. Yom HaShoah is recognized around the world as a time to remember the victims of the Holocaust, many of whose date and place of death is still unknown.
Statewide remembrance ceremonies were held in Austin on Monday, May 9, beginning with the presentation on the floor of the Texas House of Representatives of a resolution commemorating the Holocaust.
House members listened intently as Dallas resident Rudy Baum, a Jewish refugee who left Germany in 1936 for the United States, described his experience.
Baum, now 90, registered for the draft in 1941 and was inducted in the U.S. Army six months before the assault on Pearl Harbor. Baum was sent to England in May 1944 and participated in the liberation of Paris and in the Battle of the Bulge. He also was present for the liberation of Buchenwald on April 11, 1945.
He said he originally fled Germany after witnessing book burnings and boycotts of Jewish businesses. His mother committed suicide rather than be taken to the camps.
In ceremonies held later on the south steps of the state Capitol, Baum urged about 80 participants, including a school class from Congregation Beth Yeshurun, to never lose sight of the good in any people, saying he had come to understand that lesson himself from his experiences with the Germans.
Other speakers on the Capitol steps included Dana Kursh, vice consul general of the State of Israel from Houston; state Sens. Florence Shapiro (R-Plano) and Kel Seliger (R-Amarillo); and state Reps. Joe Nixon (R-Houston) and Scott Hochberg (D-Houston). Also speaking was Lea Weems, president of the Houston Council of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and a member of the Board of Directors of Holocaust Museum Houston.
The House and Senate both passed resolutions noting that this year's observance commemorated the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II. Nixon, Hochberg and Reps. Joe Straus (R-San Antonio) and Elliott Naishtat (D-Austin) were sponsors of the House version, and Senate sponsors included Shapiro, Ellis and Seliger.
The Austin ceremonies were sponsored by the Texas Coalition for Holocaust Education, which is comprised of the Dallas Holocaust Museum, the El Paso Holocaust Museum and Study Center, the Holocaust Memorial of San Antonio, Holocaust Museum Houston, Jewish Federation of Fort Worth and Tarrant County, North Texas/Oklahoma Region of the Anti-Defamation League and the Southwest Region of the Anti-Defamation League.
Holocaust Museum Houston promotes awareness and educates the public of the dangers of prejudice, hatred and violence against the backdrop of the Holocaust by fostering remembrance, understanding and education.
Holocaust Museum Houston is free and open to the public and is located in Houston's Museum District at 5401 Caroline St., Houston, TX 77004.
For more information about Holocaust Museum Houston, call 713-942-8000 or visit www.hmh.org.