This year Winnipeg Jewish Community’s marked International Holocaust Remembrance Day with a program that took place on Thursday, January 26, at the Berney Theatre, sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, and the Winnipeg Jewish Theatre. This year marks the first time the Federation has sponsored a program for International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
In her opening remarks, Laurel Malkin, Federation vice-president, who MC'd the event, explained that in November 2005 the International Holocaust Remembrance Day was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly at its Annual Plenary Session . The UN designated January 27th as the memorial day since this the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration death camp.
The commemoration was held on the 26th, Malkin pointed out, because the 27th fell on erev Shabbat.
"With this program, we are reminded of the victims of the Holocaust - the genocide that resulted in the annihilation of six million European Jews, which included 1 ½ million children. We are also reminded that 2 million Romani people, 250,000 mentally and physically disabled people, 9,000 homosexual men and millions of others were murdered by the Nazi regime and its collaborators," Malkin stated.
The Honourable Jim Carr, Minister of Natural Resources and Member of Parliament for Winnipeg South, brought greetings from Prime Minister Trudeau.
Carr who indicated he had just spent time with Trudeau earlier that day stated "Moments like this remind us again and again that we should never take freedom for granted, adding that “It is also a reminder of what it means to be Jewish.”
Carr related an anti-semitic incident that that has stayed with him, which occurred when he was a teenager. He and a friend were beaten up after being chased out of a hockey rink. “It happened not because of who we were – but because we were Jewish,” Carr explained
Carr spoke of the power of the surviving Jews who picked up the pieces and rebuilt their lives after the Nazi Holocaust. “The power of our people is not only in our strength to survive but also [to] excel and contribute to the betterment of humanity,” he said, referring to a number of Jew who have made outstanding contributions in their fields. “We have a certain joie de vivre,” Carr said
Following the lighting of the traditional six candles (commemorating the 6 million Jewish victims of the Holocaust) by Winnipeg Jewish Theatre Artistic Director Ari Weinberg and the recitation of a poem, Weinberg introduced the evening's special guest Endre Farkas. Farkas, the child of Holocaust survivors, is a Hungarian-born Canadian author, poet and playwright.
Weinberg, who attended a high school for the performing arts in Toronto, recalled that when he was in Grade 11, he had to direct a scene from a Canadian play and he chose a script by Endre about the terrors of the Holocaust as seen through his parents stories and his own journey.
As Weinberg noted Surviving Worlds " touched my heart. It was the first play I ever directed. "
Weinberg suggested to Shelley Faintuch, community relations director of the Jewish Federation that Farkas be invited to "read from his novel, “Never, Again”, and read a scene from his play.”
Weinberg,with actors Miranda Baran and Darren Martens, gave a highly a dramatic reading from an excerpt of Farkas's play. This was followed by Farkas reading from an excerpt from Never Again, which is set in post-war Communist Hungary.The book is about the story of seven-year-old Tomi Wolfstein, the son of Holocaust survivors who have never told him anything about their past experiences in the concentration camps. The story opens in the fall of 1956, when Tomi is about to start school, and chronicles his adventures and experiences in the months leading up to and during the Hungarian uprising.While most of the narrative is told from young Tomi’s perspective as he attempts to understand the events unfolding around him, interwoven into the escape story are flashbacks of his parents’ World War II experiences—stories of labour and concentration camps, of survival and escape. "Never Again" is loosely based on Endre Farkas’ experiences during this tumultuous time.
At the event, Farkas spoke about the effect of his parents’ suffering in the Holocaust on him as well as his own experiences as a seven-year-old boy in Hungary in 1956, during the Hungarian Revolution, when he and his parents escaped from Communist Hungary and were able to come to Canada.
As he explained, under the Communists, anti-Semites were generally kept under control , but with the coming of the Hungarian Revolution, a new wave of Anti-Semitism was unleashed, which was felt in rural Hungary where his family was living.
“My grade 1 teacher, whom I adored, called me a dirty little Jew and sent me home,” said Farkas , who has published 12 books of poetry and three plays and also been shortlisted for the A.M. Klein Poetry Prize.
Farkas, who has just returned from a reading and lecture tour in Hungary also spoke of anti-Semitism and racism in modern Hungary. While on a visit recently, he stopped in a store and began conversing with the shopkeeper. The shopkeeper spoke about how pleased he was that the immigrants (Muslims) were being kept out of Hungary and then blamed the Jews for starting conflict in Syria to drive Muslims into Europe so that the Jews could take over.
“My novel, “Never Again”, he says “is intended to be a call to action. Hatred and genocide is happening over and over again and we need to rise up against them.”
To read an excerpt of Farkas's book , go to http://hungarianfreepress.com/2016/10/04/endre-farkas-never-again/