Greater Philadelphia to Commemorate 75th Anniversary of Auschwitz Liberation

Six burning candles against black background
fermate / iStock / Getty Images Plus

It was 75 years ago that the Red Army arrived at the largest of the Nazi concentration and death camps: Auschwitz-Birkenau. Among those liberated from Auschwitz in 1945 was a 15-year-old Polish Jew named David Tuck.

Today, the Levittown resident, like many survivors, works to ensure something like the Holocaust never happens again.

“Make sure they never forget. If we forget, then it’s going to happen to us again, and who’s going to be next?” Tuck said. “I talk to the students a lot, and I tell them one thing: Don’t live with hate. If you live with hate, you have no life — you never forget. If I have to look at my number in my arm and dwell on it, I have no life.”

In 2005, the United Nations General Assembly and its member states voted to designate Jan. 27, the day of Auschwitz’s liberation, as International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Organizations throughout the world have scheduled events in conjunction with the day. This year’s theme is “75 years after Auschwitz — Holocaust Education and Remembrance for Global Justice.”

In Greater Philadelphia, several synagogues and organizations will hold events to commemorate the occasion.

At 7 p.m. on Jan. 23, the Men’s Club of Congregations of Shaare Shamayim will host guest speaker Chuck Feldman, president of the Holocaust Awareness Museum and Education Center. The next day, a Shabbat service will be held at Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel in Elkins Park at 8 p.m. Guests will include Holocaust survivor Ernie Gross and Don Greenbaum, who helped liberate him.

In addition, Gratz College will host an interactive program to help college students better understand the Holocaust. The free symposium will be at noon on Jan. 26 and include a film screening of “Why Are We Here? Real Diaries of Young People” and presentations by Gratz President Paul Finkelman, Director of Holocaust and Genocide Studies Monika Rice and Director of the Holocaust Oral History Archive Josey Fisher.

The Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia will host its own commemoration in partnership with the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial Foundation and the National Liberty Museum. A VIP cocktail reception is planned for 6 p.m. at the museum on Jan. 27. Participants can watch prerecorded portions of the remembrance event held at the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial in Poland, visit with local survivors and listen to performances by musicians from the Mordechai Anielewicz Creative Arts Competition.

The museum will also take guests on tours of the Forbidden Art exhibition at the museum. The traveling exhibition is on loan from Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum in Poland and features 20 photographic reproductions of original art created by prisoners at Auschwitz between 1940 and 1945. The photographs are framed inside wooden display panels, which are said to be reminiscent of the camp’s barracks. Each photo is accompanied by text providing historical context.

As for the U.N. commemoration, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin will host 47 world leaders for the Fifth World Holocaust Forum in Jerusalem on Jan. 23. Titled “Remembering the Holocaust, Fighting Antisemitism,” the event is organized by the World Holocaust Forum Foundation in cooperation with Yad Vashem, Israel’s official Holocaust memorial. The guest list includes Argentine President Alberto Fernández, French President Emmanuel Macron, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Italian President Sergio Mattarella and Russian President Vladimir Putin, as well as the kings of Spain, Belgium and The Netherlands, the Prince of Wales and the Grand Duke of Luxembourg.

From the U.S., House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Mike Pence will be in attendance.

On Jan. 27, Israel has a tradition of blasting air raid sirens throughout the country for two minutes starting at 10 a.m. People, including motorists, are expected to stop and stand in silent reflection of those who were lost in the Holocaust.

For those looking to commemorate the occasion online, Facebook has partnered with Yad Vashem to promote the IRemember Wall on its platform for the first time. IRemember Wall is an online commemorative project in six languages that links participants to the name of a random survivor in Yad Vashem’s database. People will have the option to share the person they’ve been paired with on Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter.

The United States hosts its own Holocaust commemoration in the spring. Since 1979, the Days of Remembrance has run the eight days before Yom Hashoah. That date was chosen as it corresponds to when U.S. forces liberated the Dachau concentration camp along with several smaller sites. This year, the commemoration will start on April 21.

However people choose to commemorate the day, it’s safe to say that Tuck will use it, along with any other day, to speak of the horrors of the Holocaust.

“I’m up in years. I do the best I can. And I’m booked to June,” he said.

[email protected]; 215-832-0751


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here