Holocaust survivors mark Hanukkah across globe
BERLIN (JTA) – In a ballroom decorated with a giant Hanukkah menorah made of golden balloons, some 400 Holocaust survivors and their families gathered for the second annual “Holocaust Survivors’ Night.”
This second annual event, sponsored by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, was both festive and somber. Speakers repeated concerns about recent polls showing that knowledge about the Holocaust is waning.
“We mustn’t forget to tell about what happened,” Roman Haller, director of the Claims Conference Successor Organization in Germany, said in remarks to the gathering, which was held at Berlin’s Jewish Community Center in former West Berlin. “But we are not just victims,” he emphasized. Haller was born in 1944 while his parents were in hiding in Ukraine.
The Claims Conference also hosted gatherings in Jerusalem, Moscow and the New York metro area on the third night of Hanukkah. The organization estimates that some 400,000 survivors are living throughout the world today – including those who fled to the east of the former Soviet Union.
In Berlin, speakers included Rüdiger Mahlo, Claims Conference representative in Germany; Berlin Jewish community president Gideon Joffe; German Minister of Finance Rolf Bösinger; Parliamentary State Secretary of the Foreign Ministry Michelle Müntefering; and Charlotte Knobloch, head of the Jewish community of Munich and Upper Bavaria, who survived the Holocaust in hiding in Bavaria.
Sitting at long tables decorated with balloons, participants helped themselves to a meal of rice pilaf with chicken and beef, and beet salad, washing it down with Manischewitz wine. At least one participant brought his own vodka in a hip flask. Russian could be hear everywhere.
Lighting one of the Hanukkah candles together with Berlin community Rabbi Jonah Sievers was Assia Gorban, 85, who was born in Mogilev-Podolsky and escaped with her mother from a concentration camp in Ukraine. They were liberated by the Red Army in March 1944.
In 1992 she moved from Moscow to Berlin. Today, she is a great-grandmother, and “filled with joy to see the Hanukkah menorahs” all over her adopted city.
Since the Claims Conference initiated negotiations in 1952, Germany has paid more than $80 billion in indemnification to individuals for suffering and losses resulting from the Nazi persecution.
Next year, the organization will distribute some $350 million in compensation to more than 60,000 survivors in 83 countries, plus $550 million in grants to more than 200 social service agencies that help the aged.
A CANDLE-LIGHTING ceremony is held on the third night of Hanukkah by the Jewish community of Berlin.