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WHAT IS A NAME? B’NAI BRITH'S HOLOCAUST REMEMBRANCE AND MY MEMORIES OF FRANKFURT’s HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL

by Rhonda Spivak, April 11, 2013

I sat through the annual “UNTO EVERY PERSON THERE IS A NAME” Holocaust Remembrance program put on by B’nai Brith’s League For Human Rights at the Manitoba Legislative Building, as people took turns reading out the names of victims of the Holocaust, whose families and descendants came to Manitoba.
About fifty people, including Ministers of the Government ( Sharon Blady, David Chomiak ,Christine Melnick, Andrew Swan), Brian Pallister, leader of the Conservative Party, Conservative MLA Ron Shuler, and Dr. Dr. Jon Gerard, Leader of the Manitoba Liberal Party, read through several thousand names in the two hour sombre ceremony led by   program chair Jeff Lieberman.
Ron Shuler, MLA for St Pauls told the Winnipeg Jewish Review that h has participated in reading names for many years. “Putting on the kippa while I read the names makes the service all the more meaningful. It elevates the program.”
Shuler and I spoke briefly about how powerful it is to hear survivors of the Holocaust read the names of their lost family members, sometimes adding in details about their ages or aspects of their history. But the survivors are getting older and they won’t be here for ever. Shuler says that that’s why it is important that others in the community take over and join in to read the names.
On the way out Brian Pallister told me that he hoped that he had pronounced all the names right. Sharon Blady, who was wearing a chai necklace, told me that she was continuing in her genealogical quest to trace her family name and Jewish roots. Reading the names had made her think of her own name and her own roots, much of which she is looking to uncover.
Dr. Catherine Chatterley, Director of the Canadian Institute for the Study of Antisemitism, who was asked to participate in the ceremony for the first time this year, said it was "a very moving experience" and that she "felt honored to be asked to participate in this particular Shoah memorial service, which I find deeply meaningful." 
Reading the names is a way of responding to the fact that for the Nazis, Jews were numbers (that were stamped into their arms) not people, who were deserving of long full lives.
I looked up to hear Ariel Karabelnicoff, director of State for  Israel Bonds ,read the names of his family who were murdered in the Holocaust, and realized in the many conversation I have had with him, that I had not discovered that he had lost family members.
As people took turns reading the names I began to get lost in thought, realizing how rare it is for me to sit, without being disturbed by answering a telephone or an incoming email. I began wondering whether this service put on by B’nai Brith will continue to take place after all the Holocaust survivors themselves have passed away. Will their children, the next generation make sure that the service continues or will it eventually at some point stop?

This year as I sat through the service my thoughts began drifting back to the Holocaust memorial in Frankfurt Germany, where I spent a couple of days on my way to Israel. There outside the Borneplatz, the synagogue which was destroyed on kristallnacht, I gasped as I came upon the memorial of over 11000 stone blocks, incorporated into the Frankfurt Jewish cemetary wall, depicting the names of Frankfurt’s Jews, who were murdered. Virtually the entire community was murdered, and the thought raced through my head that if had been a Frankfurt Jew during the Nazi period I would not have had a chance of survival. I contemplated this truth after wandering through the opulent palace where the Frankfurt Rothschild’s had lived (which is now a Jewish Museum run by the municipality of Frankfurt). I contemplated this truth on realizing that many of the founders of Frankfurt’s Goethe University were Jews—Their. contributions to the city, be it to Goethe university or the Clementine Children’s Hospital  had not helped save them one bit during the Nazi period. And the part that made me gasp the most was that when I spent an hour reading the last names of   Frankfurt’s Jews  who were murdered, I recognized so many of them (for example, Klein, or Rosenberg) as I know people with those last names. It was a very unsettling and eerie experience.

Below is the list of people who read out the names of  murdered Jews duing the Holocaust at the ceremony:

     
Hon. Jennifer Howard Minister of Family Services and Labour, MLA Fo
 
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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.


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