By Ms. Lindsey R Monger (ATEC)May 13, 2019
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. -- The U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command (ATEC) hosted the Team Aberdeen Proving Ground's (APG) Holocaust Remembrance Day Observance on May 6, as an opportunity for the workforce to remember the millions of victims and survivors of the Holocaust.
Days of Remembrance was established by the U.S. Congress in 1980 to memorialize the six million Jews murdered in the Holocaust. Since 1982, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum has led the Nation in commemorating Days of Remembrance. This year's theme is Beyond Religious Boundaries.
ATEC Chief of Staff Sandi Weaver welcomed the audience to the observance and provided opening remarks.
"This week of remembrance is set aside to honor and to remember the victims of the Holocaust and their liberators, so we never forget the great atrocity of which mankind is capable and we are able to look beyond religious boundaries," said Weaver.
Isak Danon, a Holocaust survivor, served as the guest speaker who shared his story during the event.
Danon was born in 1929 in Split, Yugoslavia, a country with over 80,000 Jewish residents and a vibrant Jewish culture. His parents worked and owned a dry goods store, and Danon and his three sisters attended local schools.
In 1941, the German and Italian armies invaded Yugoslavia. "It was on a Sunday morning in April, we [Danon's family] were wakened by heavy explosions… and when we went out on the streets, we saw planes dropping bombs. Nothing happened for a week, then we started seeing armed Italian soldiers controlling the city and that's when we learned that we were occupied by the Italians."
Over the years, there were a lot of restrictions set in place for the Jews by the Italians. Many of them lost their jobs, were removed from the school system, and forbidden in places such as movies, recreational areas, beaches, etc.
Danon added that the Italians who invaded his hometown were still not as brutal as the Germans. As a result, Jews from all over Europe fled to Split and the surrounding area, swelling the Jewish population from 200 to over 7,000.
In September 1943, the Germans started to occupy Split. Danon explained that he and his father knew it was time to leave after seeing pictures of what they did to the Jewish men.
According to Danon, there was nowhere to go because the surrounding areas were all controlled by Germans, Italians or Croatians. "Many people escaped to mountains and formed resistance against Germans and all their collaborators. We figured maybe we can escape, someway, to the mountain."
Danon and his father escaped to the mountains where they joined the Partisans. His mother and sisters ended up hiding in a basement of a house where a milk lady assisted in keeping them safe from the Germans and Italians.
Not long after joining the Partisans in the mountains, Danon and his father were separated. They were eventually reunited in Southern Italy, where many other refugees were located.
"There were so many refugees in Southern Italy. Italians were complaining to the British and Americans," said Danon. "Someone told President Roosevelt that there were millions of refugees all over… and he said, 'no problem, I will take a 1,000.'"
Luckily, Danon and his father were two of the 1,000 people on the list to be sent to the U.S. Just two weeks before boarding the ship, his mother and sisters were reunited with him and his father. They were also added to the list.
Danon and his family started a new life in the U.S. After becoming a U.S. citizen, he was drafted into the service and spent 18 months in France. Eventually he became an accountant in Philadelphia and later moved to Washington, D.C. where he volunteered at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.
"I talk to people about the Holocaust because even today people say, 'this never happened, it was all made up,'" said Danon. "I'm here to say it wasn't made up… I lived through it."
Also in attendance were students from Perryville Middle School, located in Cecil County. Six students recited verses of the poem, "We Light Our Candles," and lit six candles in memory of the victims of the Holocaust.