May 2018 -- Iyar-Sivan 5778,  Volume 24, Issue 5

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Survivor Agnes Vertes Speaks at Annual Yom Hashoah Holocaust Commemoration

By Stephen E. Lipken


Over 350 Westchester residents came to the Garden of Remembrance in White Plains, to hear Holocaust Survivor and President, Child Holocaust Survivors of CT.,  Agnes Vertes speak at the Annual Westchester Countywide Yom Hashoah Holocaust Commemoration, “Keeping the Memory Alive: Generation to Generation” on Thursday, April 12. The Commemoration was presented jointly by the Holocaust and Human Rights Education Center (HHREC) and Westchester Jewish Council (WJC).


In the Invocation, Rabbi Daniel Gropper, Westchester Board of Rabbis stated, “Let us resolve that ‘never again’ continues to be a rallying cry, not only to end gun violence in our schools but to assure that, as President George Washington wrote to the Jews of Newport, Rhode Island over two hundred years ago, ‘The government of the United States gives to bigotry no sanction and persecution no assistance.’”


“It is important that the gates are opened symbolically,” Westchester County Executive George Latimer stressed.  “They were not opened in the 1940’s…”


Born Agnes Katz in Budapest, Hungary in 1940, Vertes said that 9 out of 10 Jewish children perished. She and her sister got into a foster home, later destroyed and Agnes took the name “Agnes Kovacs.”


Four-year-old Agnes and her sister wandered the streets.  “It was a horrible, horrible cold evening, one of the coldest in Budapest.  Bodies were all over the city, frozen in the ground.  We ate snow and you’d be surprised how good that is if you have nothing else. We looked like what you saw in the movies, a ‘bag of bones.’


“One time, a really nasty group of Arrow Cross, Hungarian Nazis came, demanding papers.  My sister who was just learning to speak came up to this Arrow Cross guy and pulled at his trousers saying, ‘Hey mister soldier. Can I try on your cap?’  The man melted and said to his companion, ‘Could anyone but an Aryan child be as cute as this one?’  This is how my little sister at the age of two saved 100 Jewish children.


“Why did I survive? I am nobody.  Until I realized that I would be the voice of the other 9 who were murdered.”


“As always, {the commemoration} was beautiful, moving, simple and direct,” White Plains Mayor Thomas Roach observed.  “I think that the procession of the Torahs is one of the more moving portions for me because it is a physical reminder of all that was lost...”