Exhibit brought rare Holocaust photos to area

Exhibit brought rare Holocaust photos to area

1:11 p.m. EDT, October 29, 2013


"Out of 500,000 people, only 50,000 were left when I was taken," Norman Frajman said as he looked at the 60-year-old photographs of the Warsaw ghetto on the opening night of "The Courage to Remember" Holocaust exhibit. "It's hard to see these things. You're hardened but you still have tears in your eyes," the Holocaust survivor from Boynton Beach said.

The exhibit, which was developed by the Simon Wiesenthal Center and features more than 200 exclusive photographs, was at Zinman Hall on the campus of the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County in West Boca Raton from Oct. 24 through 27. It was previously in Fort Lauderdale at St. Thomas Aquinas High School and Davie at the David Posnack Jewish Community Center.

We live in a different climate but we face anti-Semitism not heard of since the 1930s, Alfred Balitzer, chairman of the board of the Foundation for California which funds the exhibit on its tours, told an Oct. 21 opening night audience.

The exhibit will go to Africa after being well received in the United States, Japan, China, Singapore and India, Balitzer said. "Non-Jewish audiences have a great taste to learn more about the Holocaust and what happened to the Jewish people." And there is Holocaust denial, "the mother's milk of terrorism [that] attempts to undermine the legitimacy of Israel," he said.

The Journey from 1939 to where we are today is about going from powerlessness to power," said Matthew C. Levin, president and CEO of the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County, whose Jewish Community Relations Council brought the exhibit to West Boca Raton where it was viewed by adults and more than 500 school children.

"The Courage to Remember" will "bring up more than your average nightmares," Levin said. "But it's also a celebration because out of the ashes we survived."

Alex Zafran, a graduate of The George Washington University and the Donna Klein Jewish Academy who went to Poland on a March of the Living trip, talked about walking from Auschwitz to Birkenau to "lead a Torah service on the spot where death and darkness once ruled."

Carrying on the memory of the Holocaust is no longer the responsibility of the survivors, Zafran said, but the responsibility of young Jews.

Helen Jonas, a house servant to Plaszow concentration camp commandant Amon Goeth and one of 1,200 Jews saved by Oskar Schindler, told the audience, "We are the last voices who speak for those whose voices were silenced."

Jonas said she talks about her experiences to "contribute and validate the truth and fight the [Holocaust] deniers."

George Sherman, a young soldier in U.S. Army Gen. George S. Patton's 11th Armored Division, talked about soldiers fighting in key battles and then liberating concentration and labor camps. "American soldiers witnessed for the first time what happened in the camps," he said.

Sherman was part of a platoon of 27 men who in May 1945 entered the Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria and discovered "piles of bodies," "skeletons walking around" and the smell of death. One of the prisoners saved was Simon Wiesenthal, Sherman said.

As he looked at the exhibit, Gary Walk, incoming president of the American Jewish Committee's Palm Beach regional office, said "I was thinking of my grandfather and his family that never came back. I was wondering what happened to him."

Walk added, "It's hard to believe that people could have allowed [the Holocaust] to happen."