May 2020 -- Iyar-Sivan 5780,  Volume 26, Issue 5

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Holocaust survivor and Guest Speaker Peter Somogyi

County Executive George Latimer

Countywide Yom Hashoah Commemoration Broadcast Remotely from Garden of Remembrance

By Stephen E. Lipken


The Annual Countywide Yom Hashoah Commemoration was broadcast remotely by Holocaust and Human Rights Education Center (HHREC) in conjunction with Westchester Jewish Council from the Garden of Remembrance, White Plains on Tuesday, April 21st, beginning with onsite Shofar blasts by HHREC member Mitchell Ostrove.

HHREC Chairperson Joseph Kaidanow introduced Rabbi Daniel Gropper, Community Synagogue of Rye and President, Westchester Board of Rabbis who identified 32 rescued Holocaust Torahs from Europe, displayed by synagogues across the County. Later, Rabbi Gropper davened Kaddish, interspersed with the names of the camps.

“Over the ages, Rabbis sought to find the meaning of numbers,” Kaidanow continued.  “Are numbers statistics or do they mean so much more?  Here today on Yom Hashoah we are called upon to remember, honor and learn incomprehensible sets of numbers, numbers that represent a horrific attempt to wipe the Jewish people from the face of the earth.


“They are the numbers etched on the arms of those who passed through Auschwitz and are now emblazoned on our hearts…”


“This Garden of Remembrance is a place of reflection,” Westchester County Executive George Latimer noted.   “We gather here every year and were even here a second time to speak out against the desecration of this Garden. Today we have to be separate but we still come together to remember the sacrifices that were made…”


WJC President Lisa Roberts introduced Guest Speaker Peter Somogyi, deported to Auschwitz on July 9, 1944 with his mother, sister and twin brother Thomas. “Even today after many decades, the wounds have not healed,” Somogyi began. “While it is still painful to tell the story, it is unthinkable that it should not be told...”


Somogyi recounted being packed into a windowless cattle car then released to face dogs and guards with guns. “There was a terrible smell, with flames shooting from a chimney.”  He was separated from his family and subjected to experiments by Dr. Josef Mengele with his twin brother.


“On January 27, 1945, the Soviet Army liberated Auschwitz and we were finally free. It took three months for me to return home. “What will it take to stop the teaching of hate,” Somogyi concluded.  “It takes education against intolerance, indifference and inaction.”