Amherst woman shares story of survival for International Holocaust Remembrance Day
AMHERST, MA (WGGB/WSHM) - On Friday, the entire world observed International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which honors the millions of Jews and countless others who were killed in one of the worst mass genocides in history and one survivor, who lives in Amherst, continues to share her story with people across the area.
“Right now, I’m hurting because the Holocaust reminds me all the people in my family that perished,” said Henny Lewin.
Lewin is one of fewer than 100,000 Holocaust survivors still living today. In 1941, when she was just a baby, Lewin and her family were taken to a religious ghetto in Slabotka, Lithuania. At least eight of Lewin’s relatives died there. Lewin described some of the horrors that had taken place.
“Within a couple months, it had gone down from 40,000 Jews to 20,000 because they got rid of all the older people and any people who weren’t quite appealing in their eyes,” Lewin noted.
Stories like Lewin’s continue to be shared on this International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which is also commemorating the 78th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.
“It was named by the U.N. as the day to identify as the date of pause and say we want to remember the atrocities that happened during World War II,” said Rabbi Amy Wallk at Temple Beth El.
At least six million Jews and many others were murdered by Nazis during that era. Unfortunately, anti-Semitism is still on the rise across the nation, but Wallk told Western Mass News that society can become better if people recognize their own prejudices and implicit biases.
“Wherever you are on the political spectrum, in your camp and in your circle, there is somebody that is using language that is othering. Right now, the Jewish identity, as a minority, is being dismissed and it ought not be dismissed because Jews are minorities in this country,” Wallk explained.
Lewin, a now-retired professor, has been trying to help with that for years. The 83-year-old Amherst resident is currently a Jewish Federation of Western Massachusetts board member and continues to share her story with kids of all ages when invited by schools and colleges.
“I want other people to understand what it feels like when you are a survivor…People are taught to hate. People have to be taught to see the light. People have to be taught to see that everybody is the same under the skin. It doesn’t matter what color. It doesn’t matter what religion. We’re all human beings,” Lewin added.
Both Lewin and Wallk hope that Holocaust survival stories live on forever, so that genocides like this never happen again. Yom Hashoah, which is Holocaust Remembrance Day for the Jewish community, will be observed on April 18.
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