Yom HaShoah:  Survivor to speak at commemoration

 

Holocaust survivor Eric Blaustein was 12 when German officials arrested his father, along with thousands of other Jews, during Kristallnacht.

He was set to speak at the local Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony last year, but the event was canceled due to a weekend snowstorm. Now, he’s again set to speak at the community Holocaust Remembrance Day, known as Yom HaShoah, at 3 p.m. on Sunday, May 5 at the Harry & Rose Samson Family Jewish Community Center, 6255 N. Santa Monica Blvd.

The JCC is holding the event in partnership with the Nathan and Esther Pelz Holocaust Education Resource Center of Milwaukee Jewish Federation.

Eric Blaustein. Photo by Al Benson.

“Hitler took power when I started school, in the same week,” Blaustein said. That was in 1933, when he was 6. He remembers getting about five pounds of sweets for the first day of school – a German custom.

Blaustein’s father and many others were sent to concentration camps in connection with the Night of Broken Glass, Nov. 9, 1938 – Kristallnacht. Blaustein avoided the Nazis until late in 1944, just months before the end of the war. But at 17 he was sent to Buchenwald, where he survived until American forces arrived.

The 92-year-old, of Illinois, didn’t want to speak on the Holocaust for a long time. “It’s frankly impossible to describe in a good way,” he said.

He started giving speeches when he was around 70, in high schools, colleges and elsewhere.

He has talked to more non-Jewish than Jewish audiences, because he used to feel Jewish audiences should already know about the Holocaust. But in recent years he’s decided that young Jews need to be educated and he’s been more open to speaking to Jewish audiences.

“I have come to understand that this is very important to get across,” he said, adding that young Jewish people “have to be on their guard.”

In Germany, people were cheering Hitler and it didn’t matter what he said, Blaustein said. It was “a mass of uneducated downtrodden people who are looking for a savior.”

“I really believe there is hardly anybody left who is able to do this,” he said, and he has concluded that “as long as I can do it I will.”

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How to go

What: Yom HaShoah commemoration, with keynote speaker Holocaust survivor Eric Blaustein

When: 3 p.m., Sunday, May 5, 2019

Where: Harry & Rose Samson Family Jewish Community Center, 6255 N. Santa Monica Blvd.

Cost: Free.

More info: During the commemoration ceremony,  Beth Feest  will be recognized as Holocaust Education Honoree. Also, student winners will be announced for the Holocaust Writing and Art Contest, sponsored by the Habush Family Foundation.