PARIS — Holocaust survivors in several cities around the world are lighting candles for Hanukkah together, as Jewish community leaders try to keep firsthand memories of the Nazi horrors alive.
An 86-year-old man in Moscow described being forced by Nazi occupiers into a ghetto as a child. Elderly survivors in New York shared stories Sunday at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty.
Survivors also gathered in Munich, and other ceremonies are planned Monday at the Western Wall in Jerusalem and in Paris. The events were organized by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany.
“Keeping the memory of the Holocaust alive is a crucial and increasingly difficult task, and creating a connection with the remaining survivors is the best and most sustainable way to do that,” Charlotte Knobloch, a Holocaust survivor who now leads Munich’s Jewish community, said in a statement.
Hand-in-hand with a rabbi, survivor Mikhail Spektr said a prayer and lit a menorah in Moscow. He then sang songs for a crowd of people from Russia’s Jewish community, accompanied by a fiddler and accordion player.
As a child when the war began, Spektr said, he didn’t realize what was going on.
When the Nazis came, he recalled his grandfather telling him that they were “a civilized nation, they wouldn’t do anything to us.”
But he and his family were taken to a ghetto on Ukraine’s western edge, and held there from 1941 until the Red Army liberated it in 1944.
“We were all sleeping on the floor. We lived on the territory (of the ghetto), isolated from the city by barbed wire. The entrance was guarded by Nazi soldiers and policemen,” he said. “People who dared (to leave) were indeed shot.”
Dozens of survivors also gathered Sunday in New York, some wearing winter caps, others wearing kippas. Some smiled as they shared a meal; others looked on pensively as they listened to speeches and songs.
Renowned Nazi hunter Serge Klarsfeld, scheduled to speak at the Paris event Monday, noted that some Holocaust survivors are living in poverty, and called on others to remember and support them.