Shoah is the Hebrew word for catastrophe. It is the term used to describe the catastrophic destruction of 6 million European Jews between 1938 and 1945. Each year, Yom HaShoah is the day set aside to remember those who suffered, those who fought, those who perished and those who survived.
Savannah’s observance of Yom HaShoah will take place Thursday, April 16th at the JEA. This year’s keynote speaker will be Dr. Bernd Wollschlaeger whose book, “A German Life: Against All Odds Change is Possible”, describes his struggle growing up in Germany in the shadow of his father, a highly-decorated WWII tank commander and Nazi officer. Dr. Wollschlaeger was fourteen when he discovered his father’s role as a Nazi in World War II. From that moment he began his journey to learn more about the Jewish people and reach beyond the hatred around him. He was assisted by a former Jesuit priest and many Holocaust survivors. He eventually converted to Judaism, immigrated to Israel and served in the Israel Defense Forces as a Medical Officer. His story is truly remarkable and provides another view of the far reaching impact of the Holocaust.
The Remembrance Day observance will begin at 9 am when the names of those who perished in the Holocaust are read and their memories honored. For ten straight hours, volunteers will read in 15 minute shifts until the evening program begins at 7 pm. The Holocaust remembrance also will feature artwork by Savannah area school children from middle school to high school who submitted works for competition in the annual Yom HaShoah Art and Writing contest. Art and Writing contest winners will be recognized during the evening program.
The Yom HaShoah Ceremony will begin at 7 pm and will include Dr. Bernd Wollschlaeger’s keynote presentation, readings, a children’s processional, recognition of local Holocaust survivors, lighting of memorial candles and benedictions from the Rabbis of Savannah’s Jewish congregations.
The Yom HaShoah ceremony is free and open to the public. People from all faiths and walks of life are invited to attend.