Yom Hashoah, or Holocaust Remembrance Day, established in 1950, is held each year on the 27th day of Nissan on the Jewish calendar. This year, the 27th day of Nissan fell on April 12.
Fort Bragg’s Days of Remembrance ceremony, “Holocaust: The power of words the American response,” was held at the Iron Mike Conference Center to mark the occasion.
At the back of the conference room displays featuring woodcraft from Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 27th Engineer Battalion, 20th Engineer Brigade. The wooden panels featured photos documenting the holocaust and were a backdrop for a table of tea lights to be lit after the ceremony to honor the memory of those lost during the Holocaust.
Guest speakers included Dr. Zev Harel, Professor Emeritus, Cleveland State University, and Holocaust survivor, Retired Sgt. Hubert Edwards and the benediction closing the event was given by Chap. Rudiger Scholz, German Protestant Military Chaplain for the U.S. and Canada.
Commander of the 19th Engineer Battalion in Fort Knox, Kentucky, Lt Col. Estee Pinchasin, was the guest master of ceremony.
“My Family and extended Family either escaped or survived (the Holocaust). It’s very personal from both sides of my Family,” Pinchasin explained. “You meet the survivors that made it here, and you know that we are here on their shoulders and just living with their memories and passing on what they’ve been through and what they’ve witnessed so that we never ever forget.”
Officials and guest speakers lit six candles, at the front of the room, each lit in remembrance. The first candle honored 1.5 million children killed during the Holocaust. The second candle honored the untold millions killed for whom there is no one left to mourn. The third candle honored those who took a moral stand against the Nazis. The fourth candle honored the soldiers who fought against the Nazis, liberated the living and carried the dead. The fifth candle honored the six million Jews and millions of others who were killed and persecuted. The sixth candle honored those around the world who currently face oppression.
Harel, the first speaker, reached Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest German concentration center, and extermination camp when he was just 14 -years-old.
Harel addressed attendees asking three things of them: that they remember how this happened, that they honor the those who brought about defeat but that they also to reflect.
“Reflect, and what it means, is do all the good things that you can do,” Harel said.
Our country is country of immigrants, a country of diversity … We are a land of diversity. We have to make our country as respectful of diversity as possible,” he said.
Edwards, a Fort Bragg Soldier, part of the 17th Field Artillery Brigade during World War II spoke next. He shared stories of his 660 days on the front lines of WWII with the audience.
“We should tell our children, our grandchildren, and our great-grandchildren, and I’ve got some of them, about what happened in WWII,” said Edwards. “We should help them learn one thing that happened, love. Love thy neighbor … and make this world a better place to live.”
Following individual speeches, Pinchasin moderated a panel discussion including pre-selected questions with Harel and Edwards.
Scholz then stood to offer a benediction.
Scholz explained to the audience that his uniform, his presence, his participation represent progress and peace.
“From enemies, not only allies but closest friends,” Scholz explained.
He spoke of a German soldier turned pastor, Martin Niemöller, and read first in German, then in English famous words written by Niemöller about the Holocaust:
“‘First, they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out — Because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out — Because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out — Because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for me,’” read Scholz.