More than 200 people filled University Hall on Nov. 9 for an afternoon commemorating the 70th anniversary of the beginning of the Holocaust, known as Kristallnacht.
Hosted by the Bellarmine College of Liberal Arts and the Jewish Studies Program, the event remembered the victims of Kristallnacht, or “The Night of Broken Glass,” which took place in1938. In one night, Nazi-orchestrated violence killed 92 Jews, arrested more than 25,000 others and destroyed 200 synagogues and thousands of Jewish homes and businesses.
“Kristallnacht is recognized as the start of the Holocaust. It is remembered as a way to honor the dead and teach younger generations about the injustice that occurred,” said Holli Levitsky, director of the Jewish Studies Program at Loyola Marymount University and associate professor of English.
Keynote speaker Beth Cohen., professor of Jewish Studies at Cal State Northridge, delivered a lecture titled, “Holocaust Survivors in Postwar America: Facts & Fictions of the Early Years.” Cohen explored the challenges that Jewish immigrants faced when they arrived in the United States in the late 1940s and early 1950s and demystified the idea that the experience was positive.
The story of Cantor Leopold Szneer, a Kristallnacht survivor, was shared by LMU student, Karen Feiner, and followed by a prayer sung by Cantor Szneer. Two LMU students discussed the art work done in a workshop led by Debra Linesch, professor and director of the Department of Marital and Family Therapy at LMU, which was inspired by the art therapy of Friedl Dicker-Brandeis, a Viennese artist who gave art classes and lectures while detained in the ghetto of Terezin. Dicker-Brandeis was later deported to Auschwitz and murdered.
“Each person involved in the Holocaust had a story: the ones who died and the ones who survived. One by one these stories are still being told. It is important to tell them,” Levitsky said. “Their story also is our own story, and gives us a greater view of humanity.”
A reception followed the program, which included the multi-media exhibit, “Last Days of the Four Seasons” by Rick Nahmias. The photo-based exhibit tells the story of the people from The Four Seasons Lodge. In 1978, nearly 100 Polish, Russian, and Hungarian Jews, who survived the Nazi death camps and World War II, bought 44 acres in the Catskill Mountains where they created an idyllic refuge called The Four Seasons Lodge.
“Nahmias’ work with the lodgers is an honest and uplifting portrait of survivors documenting the whole trajectory of their lives. You get a sense of the pain they have gone through, but also see them living life fully and pressing to make each moment count,” Levitsky said.
The event was sponsored by The “1939” Club, an organization of Holocaust survivors and descendants. Many Jewish community leaders attended the program in addition to faculty and students.
“I hope people are moved to remember. I hope people will identify with those who have suffered so much, and be compelled to help make the world a better place by understanding this piece of history more precisely,” Levitsky said.