Holocaust's toll remembered through exhibit at Modesto's Vintage Faire Mall By Sue Nowicki

Holocaust's toll remembered through exhibit at Modesto's Vintage Faire Mall

By Sue Nowicki

Feb. 09, 2012

Photo slideshow: http://www.modbee.com/2012/02/09/2063184/holocausts-toll-taught-through.html


Jim Sanders, a Modestan who helped liberate the notorious Buchenwald concentration camp after World War II, and Ephraim Hadjis, a Greek Holocaust survivor, moved the 300-plus people Thursday afternoon at Vintage Faire Mall's center court.


Their remarks drew enthusiastic applause at the opening of the educational exhibit "The Courage to Remember."


The exhibit, featuring 42 panels with photos and text, tells the story of how 6 million Jews, plus millions of Gypsies, disabled people and other "undesirables," lost their lives during World War II because of Adolf Hitler's atrocities.


The exhibit will remain at the mall through Feb. 20.


The crowd at Thursday's event was hugely diverse, from teens, young adults — some with tattoos and green or purple hair — and Jewish men wearing suits to immigrants, middle-aged folks and seniors. The youth group from Congregation Beth Shalom served refreshments to the crowd.


Students from Stockton to Turlock crowded around the panels, some answering questions as part of a class assignment, others there for extra credit.


Katrina Dancy, a 16-year-old Plaza High School student from Stockton, read one display panel with several of her peers, who attended the exhibit as part of their world history classes.

"I think it (the Holocaust) was sad," she said.


Christopher Hernandez, 16, snapped pictures with his cell phone. The most impressive display photo, said the Johansen High School student, was one of a chest-high pile of shoes — a silent reminder of the people killed. When asked if he thought a Holocaust could happen again, he said, "No. We don't have crazy people like Hitler."


His mom, Irene Hernandez, 53, said she hopes the Holocaust is never repeated.


"We are lucky that this didn't happen in our time," she said. "I hope that all this (the exhibit) will be instilled in people's minds so that it won't happen again. I didn't realize the impact this would have."


Stunned by the brutality


Scott Chancer, 60, moved to Modesto two weeks ago from Dallas. His father and uncles were all in the military during World War II, he said. One uncle was in the Battle of the Bulge; another was a fighter pilot who was shot down numerous times but managed to escape, until he was captured first by the Germans and a short time later by the Russians — a lucky break for him, Chancer said.


"As a human being, it's very painful to visualize the brutality that one individual can have on someone else," he said after viewing the panels. "On TV, there is so much violence that you'd think people would tend to become jaded by it. But this brutality is amazing. And think about all the American companies that participated in this."


Rebekah Baize, a 40-year-old Oakdale resident, said she found the exhibit "very graphic and educational. It's terrifying that this could happen. I'm looking at the brave faces of these five women who are about to be shot and thrown on the pile of bodies behind them. I would have been on the ground, not standing there."


Felipé Gamiz, a 43-year-old Modestan, said he brought his daughters to show them what happened because of Hitler.


"The same thing could happen again," he said. "Immigrants coming from other countries don't work together. I think these things happen too many times — not just in the Holocaust."


Luis Torres, a 25-year-old Modesto Junior College student, said he was there as part of a class assignment, but had gotten caught up by the speakers and wanted to talk with them after the opening ceremony ended.


"One said we need conscience and responsibility among ordinary people," he said.


"Sometimes you can forget about responsibility by getting tied up in life — going to school, work, staying busy. We need to talk to each other about our responsibility."


He applauded Hadjis, a Jew from Greece who lost several family members during the war. Hadjis asked the audience how many people knew that the Holocaust had reached Greece, too. Only a few people raised their hands.


'Greek Jews perished'


"My family was in Greece for 2,400 years," said Hadjis, who now lives in the Fresno area. "Overall, most of the Greek Jews perished. In my town, only 27 percent perished because the rabbi and the priest were friends. Christian papers were issued and we were told to flee. We lived between the caves and survived by eating the vegetation.


"On the island of Patmos, no (Jews) died. People there saved everyone. That, to me, is humanity."


Sanders summed up his actions as a camp liberator by saying, "We were there so we could come back and tell what happened."


The display, organized by the Simon Wiesenthal Museum of Tolerance in Southern California and funded by the Foundation of California, does just that — tells what happened. Parents should note that some photos may be too graphic for children 10 and under, sponsors said.