By Mr. Michael K. Beaton, Presidio of MontereyApril 9, 2014
PRESIDIO OF MONTEREY, Calif. --
The Presidio of Monterey and Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center held a Days of Remembrance observance ceremony April 9 at the Tin Barn to commemorate the Jewish Holocaust.
The Jewish Holocaust was the state-sponsored, systematic persecution and annihilation of European Jewry by Nazi Germany and its collaborators between 1933 and 1945
The observance event was organized and sponsored by the Presidio of Monterey Dental Clinic and the DLIFLC Hebrew Department, many of who's students took active part in the event's program.
The theme designated for the 2014 observance is "Confronting the Holocaust: American Responses."
More than six million Jews were murdered by the end of World War II, ending centuries of European Jewry and its contribution to western art, literature and culture.
The Holocaust Days of Remembrance is an eight-day period of commemoration that coincides with Yom Ha-shoah, Hebrew for Holocaust Remembrance Day, and initiates the eight days leading up to Israeli Independence Day.
This year Holocaust Remembrance Week takes place April 27 through May 4.
The Presidio Observance began with an invocation by Army Chaplain Maj. Terry Cobban following the singing of the national anthem by the DLIFLC choir. The opening remarks and introduction of the keynote speaker was made by Col. Glen Fallo, Presidio of Monterey Dental Clinic commander.
THE LESSONS OF THE HOLOCAUST IN A MODERN WORLD
This year's observance ceremony keynote speaker was Professor Avner Even-Zohar, a Sabra (native Israeli-born Jew) who served for six years as an education officer in the Israeli army. He is an assistant professor of the DLIFLC Hebrew Department.
Besides teaching at the DLIFLC Hebrew Department, he is a published author and sought after speaker and lecturer.
Even-Zohar opened his presentation by outlining the cruel and gruesome history of the Holocaust, from its sinister beginnings in 1930's Nazi Germany to its tragic and grotesque conclusion at the end of WWII with the arrival of Allied troops and the liberation of Jews and other prisoners from the network of concentration camps throughout Germany and its conquered territories.
"The Holocaust was the systematic, bureaucratic, state-sponsored persecution and murder of approximately six million Jews by the Nazi regime and its collaborators," said Even-Zohar,
"not all victims were Jewish, but all Jews were victims."
He noted that "the final solution" is the name Nazis gave to the extermination of all Jewish people. "They defined the Jews as a race; it was the code-language they used for organized murder."
"The lesson of the Holocaust begins when you hear people speaking bigotry, whether in the form of homo-phobia or racism. It always starts with hate speech," said Even-Zohar. "The hatred that led to the Holocaust is still alive in the world. We have to be vigilant."
Continuing his retrospective, Even-Zohar touched on several events after WWII that illustrated the enduring tenacity of hatred and ignorance, including the testimony of Adolph Eichmann who was found and brought to trial in 1960, and more recently, the hate-filled government-sanctioned speeches of elected Iranian political and clerical thugs made today and Holocaust deniers around the world.
Leaning on the podium, Even-Zohar paused and drew breath. "But there was light too, even during the Holocaust; there were people whose humanity survived all brutality, isolation and torture. Jews and Gentiles who had the strength to do what was right."
Even-Zohar quoted the Holocaust survivor, author Viktor Frankl who observed that some people in the camps would divide their meager rations to share with others: "Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation."
Even-Zohar said that "Frankl was showing that kindness, even amidst the horror and nightmare of the camps, was an act of humanity. It gave life meaning."
He ended his remarks explaining "That is no less a lesson of the Holocaust also -- to serve others, to do good in the world, not for yourselves but for a greater purpose than your own life: your families, your country, those less fortunate."
"That," he emphasized, "is how to honor the survivors, the rescuers and the liberators of the Holocaust, as well as the victims."
Following Even-Zohar's remarks, DLIFLC students Staff Sgt. Brian Hotchkiss, Airmen 1st Class Christian Mallinson and Emiliy Houghton and Sgt. Lamisha Davis took turns reading profiles of remarkable people, Jews and Gentiles, whose humanity provided hope in the impossible world of the camps where the Holocaust was perpetrated.
The observance was concluded with a Jewish song of remembrance played by DLIFLC student Airman 1st Class Zachary Obst on guitar with accompanying vocals by Seaman Apprentice Elise Barnette.
ABOUT THE DAYS OF REMEMBRANCE
The United States Congress established the Days of Remembrance in 1980 as the nation's annual commemoration of the Holocaust and created the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum as a permanent living memorial to the victims that same year.
During the Presidio's observance service members also lit candles in memory of the six million Jews, among them a million and a half children, murdered by the German state and its allies across Europe between 1933 and 1945, and observed a moment of silence for all the victims of the Holocaust.
To learn more about the people and facilities of the Presidio of Monterey visit the official garrison website at www.monterey.army.mil.