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Yom HaShoah goes to Capitol

first_imgHershel Frankiel was just 8 when he was told to crawl into a hole in Nazi-occupied Poland with his parents and aunt. Inside a shed and covered with wood, the hole was 6 feet wide, 6 feet long and 2 1/2 feet deep. Its occupants crammed in like sardines to avoid being found and given to the Nazis. In the morning, the owner of the farm carried a pail to the barn to milk his cow, secretly bringing food that he slipped through a shaft to his Jewish refugees. Out the shaft they would pass their bodily waste. Over the final two years of World War II, Frankiel left the ditch only once. “A single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic,” said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Wiesenthal Center, the West L.A.-based human-rights organization named after the famed Nazi hunter. “As long as we can help the younger generations connect the human face of a neighbor, it is going to have a much more immediate and deeper impact on California.” Many synagogues and Hebrew schools encourage their teenagers to document a survivor’s story. That is why Ruth Birndorf, who was interviewed by a student at Abraham Joshua Heschel Day School in Northridge, is heading to Sacramento. Birndorf, a German-born Dutch Jew, spent a year stuck in a safe-house attic and another living in the corner of an upstairs bedroom. “You could never go near a window because you couldn’t cast a shadow. And if anybody came over, we hid behind a false wall in the closet,” the 75-year-old Woodland Hills woman said. “You lived in constant fear of being discovered because you knew once you were discovered, that meant certain death. And it was not just you. It was the family who took you in. “It was amazingly courageous what they did,” she said of those who harbored Jews. “They just followed their hearts and their conscience.” Birndorf keeps in touch with her protectors’ children, whom she calls her brother and sister. The Capitol visits are being orchestrated by Assemblyman Lloyd Levine, D-Van Nuys, who for the past two years assisted former Assemblywoman Rebecca Cohn with the annual event. Each legislator’s office is financing their survivor’s travel. Levine, who is Jewish, said the half-day event, which will include survivors speaking from the Assembly floor, is one of many programs needed to ensure that people never forget. “The Holocaust was a terrible tragedy that occurred 60-plus years ago. But when you look around the world today, you still see tragedies of the same proportion,” Levine said. “Kosovo and Darfur and Rwanda. The list goes on. We are not learning, and we need to learn from the past and stop these things before they rise to the level of the Holocaust.” [email protected] (818) 713-3634 If you go Holocaust Remembrance Day will be commemorated at 10 a.m. Sunday in the Kamenir Chapel of Mount Sinai Memorial Park, 6150 Mount Sinai Drive, Simi Valley. Also, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and the Israeli consul general will speak at 1:45 p.m. at the Holocaust Monument in Pan Pacific Park, 7600 Beverly Blvd. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! “It’s amazing how adaptable people are,” said Frankiel, now 71 and living in Hollywood. “I feel more fortunate now and more acceptant of the privilege of having lived through that.” Along with Holocaust survivors from every district in the California Assembly, Frankiel will be in Sacramento on Monday to share his story of survival as part of Holocaust Remembrance Day, which will be commemorated worldwide Sunday. Every year, Jews observe Yom HaShoah – its Hebrew name – to preserve the memory of 6 million murdered Jews, and to decry the pronouncements of Holocaust deniers such as those who gathered last November in Iran, where President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has deemed the Holocaust a myth and called for the annihilation of Israel. “Those who deny the Holocaust, I ask them: Find me those who vanished,” Vernon Rusheen, 82, of Woodland Hills demanded during a recent survivors conference at the Simon Wiesenthal Center. Observing Yom HaShoah gains significance each year because those who were liberated from the concentration camps or survived in hiding are now dying of old age. Without their faces we are prone to forget, Jewish leaders say. last_img read more