Each year, the working committee selects a theme and speaker to commemorate the past and illuminate this dark period in world history. The speakers, most of whom are survivors of this horrific time, have also included Righteous Gentiles, men and women who placed their own lives in jeopardy to save and protect the lives of those in peril, and liberators, those who witnessed the nightmare of concentration camps first hand. Their stories of personal courage in the face of overwhelming challenges continue to enrich, inspire, and motivate us to speak out against prejudice and discrimination so that we may help prevent another Holocaust.
2023: Fred Polak – Fred Polak is the child of Dutch Holocaust survivors, Jaap (Jack) and Ina. His parents’ love story began in a concentration camp and endured for decades. The love letters they secretly exchanged strengthened them during a time of untold hardship. Jack’s letters, which miraculously survived, became the basis for the book and inspired the award-winning documentary, “Steal A Pencil For Me”. Fred continues his parents’ commitment to Holocaust education and will speak about the lessons to be learned from the Holocaust. Excerpts from the movie will be shown.
2022: Anne Millman – The Nazis invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, less than four months after Anne Millman’s parents, David and Sarna Weichman, were married in Warsaw. David, a young artist, believed they should all flee the country but his bride’s family disagreed. Anne Millman’s presentation takes us from those early moments when crucial decisions had to be made through an odyssey that eventually led to her parents’ survival and her own remarkable birth. Only many years later did Anne learn of the most basic elements of their secret journey through a harrowing period of history.
2019: Stefanie Seltzer, Founder and President of the World Federation of Jewish Child Survivors of the Holocaust and Descendants of Survivors.
2018: Robert Max, Survivor. An American soldier who escaped and survived a Nazi slave labor camp in WWII.
2017: Ed Bindell, born in Lwow, Poland in 1938. A hidden child, he survived by living for three years (1941-1944) with a righteous person, Jozia Remus. Jozia was Ed’s nanny before the war. His mother survived by hiding outside Lwow, but his father was murdered. In 1945 his mother remarried creating a family with a new father and sister. They moved to various Displaced Persons camps in Germany as a way to escape the Russians. The family left Germany for the US in 1952. Ed has been coordinating the “Twin with a Survivor “ program since 2005. He feels this is the most rewarding work he has ever done. Ed retired from the business world in 1998 and is currently living in Montclair.
2016: Mother of South Orange resident Sheryl Hoffman, Ilona Medwied, a hidden child survivor and one of those displaced persons, shared her remarkable story of survival and adjustment.
2015: Marsha Kreuzman, survivor
2014: A dramatic narrative, based on the testimony of 20 local men and women who survived the Holocaust.
2012: Ronald Meier; New York Regional Director, Anti-Defamation League
2011: Harry Ettlinger, member of the ‘Monuments Men” tasked with saving Europe’s artwork and culture during World War II and Co-chair of the Raoul Wallengberg Foundation. Rabbi Jehiel Orenstein received the Sister Rose Award and served as a second speaker at the service.
2010: Clara Kramer, a survivor who was hidden with 18 others in a pit dug in the basement of a Righteous Christian.
2008: Ursala Korn Selig, a survivor who was hidden with her mother by a priest in Italy.
2006: Ursala Pawel, a survivor of Auschwitz. Her story is told in the book My Child Is Back.
2005: Jaap Penratt, a Dutchman who saved 406 Jewish lives by forging documents for them. His talk was entitled “Forging Freedom – The 60th Anniversary of Liberation”.
2004: Gena Lanceter, a survivor who was pushed from a train bound for an extermination camp by her parents in order to save her life. Gena survived through the help of a railroad worker, a priest and many Righteous Christians.
2003: Professor Johannes Morskink, “The Holocaust and Human Rights”
2002: Sister Rose Thering, co-founder of the annual commemoration, spoke at the 25th Anniversary Service.