Elie Wiesel, shown in 2012, won the Nobel Peace Prize for his autobiographical books recounting his experience in Nazi death camps.
Credit: AP/Bebeto Matthews

Hundreds gather in West Hempstead for Holocaust Remembrance Day as journalist recalls a conversation with author Elie Wiesel

Published: April 17, 2023 at the www.newsday.com
By: Darwin Yanes (darwin.yanes@newsday.com)

Hundreds gathered virtually and in person Sunday evening in West Hempstead to commemorate Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, and to hear journalist Marvin Kalb recall his conversations with the late Elie Wiesel, renowned author, and survivor of the Nazi death camps.

The event was held at Congregation Shaaray Shalom in West Hempstead and was attended by about 700 people, according to organizers. Larry Rosenberg, the program chair, led the ceremony and touched on the origins of this dark period in history.

“The Holocaust, or Shoah in Hebrew, was an act by an established government, Nazi Germany, with due process, with collaboration, and at times with a world of silence,” Rosenberg said.

“It is simply not humanly possible to grasp six million murders, but we can try,” Rosenberg said. “We try with one candle for each of the one million people murdered, killed for just being Jewish.”

In homage to the Jews killed, a survivor and several relatives of Holocaust victims lit candles, while a seventh candle was lit for non-Jewish victims.

“Yes, there were many people who did great movies on the Holocaust, documentaries about the Holocaust, hundreds of books about the Holocaust, but the person in my judgment who brought the power of the Holocaust to the world was Elie Wiesel,” Kalb said.

Kalb, 92, said Wiesel’s works have helped to keep the memories of the Holocaust alive. He spoke about the recent rise of antisemitism and the hurtful rhetoric that has contributed to some hate crimes. However, like his late friend Wiesel, Kalb remains optimistic in the country.

“This country still has deep roots of goodness and liberty, and we have to depend on two factors,” he said, adding that a vital judicial system and a fearless press corps were critical to stemming the rise of fascism.

The recorded testimony of the late Goldie Schwartz, originally from Czechoslovakia, was also played. In the interview with the Staten Island Advance, she spoke about her life before, during, and after the Holocaust. Schwartz recalled being separated from her parents and siblings at a young age, when they were taken to Auschwitz, the horrors she endured in two other concentration camps, and her liberation, years later, by Russian soldiers.

“Many times I had nothing to eat the whole day, but I wanted to live,” Schwartz recalled in the interview.

She remembered walking from Stutthof to another camp just about two or three weeks before being liberated. “We had to walk and if you couldn’t walk they shot you. They left you there,” Schwartz said.

The evening also featured the Nassau Lower Voices of the Metropolitan Youth Orchestra singing traditional Hebrew songs like “Ani Ma-amin” and “Al Shlosha D’Varim.”