HARRISBURG — Gov. Edward Rendell and his staff held their 2009 Civic Commemoration of the Holocaust Tuesday. An annual event, the service included several speakers, including the governor and members of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and Senate.
The theme, according to Michael Sand, board of directors chair for the Pennsylvania Jewish Coalition, was, “Why should all Pennsylvania remember the Holocaust.”
“Time might change how we remember the Holocaust,” he said. “We as a society must fight time. We must fight to make sure the actions of the Holocaust are never repeated.”
The whole ceremony revolved around the idea of not forgetting the travesty that occurred in Europe. Rendell said that it is imperative that ceremonies like this continue long after there are no more survivors to remember.
“When you have people who seek to deny, minimize and trivialize the Holocaust, these memorials must go on,” Rendell said. “This is a service you can look 100 years into the future and hope you still have. It’s so important to keep this message fresh.”
Rendell stressed that while only one day a year there is an actual service, remembering the Holocaust is an everyday thing.
“This is not a one-day event,” he said. “This has to be a 365-day process.”
With the current situation in Sudan, many of the speakers reflected on how the United States cannot allow the same result in Darfur. Remembering the Holocaust will sensitize people to similar situations.
“We as a society need to remember those who perished at the hands of those who preached hate, bigotry and anti-Semitism,” Lt. Gov. Joseph Scarnati said. “By remembering we will help bring up a more mature, peaceful and understanding society.”
One of the nongovernment officials to speak was Charles Press, a World War II concentration camp liberator. He spoke to contradict all those around the world who deny that the Holocaust ever happened.
“In May of 1945 we liberated a camp six kilometers from the German/Czech boarder,” he started his story. “We were not prepared for what we saw. We came into a camp with open graves ready for corpses, piles of shoes 20 feet high. When we saw the people they were just skin and bones. Don’t say the Holocaust didn’t happen — I was there. These survivors lived it.”
To conclude, seven Holocaust survivors from Harrisburg and Scranton lit candles to remember those lives lost in the Holocaust.
“We are forever grateful that the government office has this remembrance day,” said Rabbi Eric Cytryn of Beth El Congregation in Harrisburg. “Each of the 11 million people who died, Jews and non-Jews, was a precious human being created in God’s image.”
(Mike Zoller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)