The day of Holocaust remembrance was established in 1951 by the State of Israel to memorialize the 6 million Jews who were murdered in the Shoah, a Hebrew word meaning The Destruction. The Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance annually commemorates Yom Hashoah at a community-wide event as part of its mission to teach the history of the Holocaust and advance human rights to combat prejudice, hatred, and indifference.
The day’s full name is Yom Hashoah VeHagevurah which translates to “day of the Catastrophe and Heroism.” The use of the longer name is especially appropriate at this year’s Yom Hashoah program which remembered those who perished and highlighted the testimonies of resistance of three Holocaust survivors: Mike Jacobs, read by his son Mark Jacobs; Les Mittelman, read by his daughter Julie Berman; and Leon Bakst, read by his daughter Marsha Gaswirth.
While you’ve missed the beautiful voices of the choir mingled with the singing of the Israeli Scouts and powerful words from Rabbi Stern, Mary Pat Higgins, President and CEO of the Dallas Holocaust Museum, and Florence Shapiro, Chairman of the Board for the Dallas Holocaust Museum, here are synopses of the three testimonies.
Survivor and Partisan, Leon Bakst
In 1941 Germany invaded Evia, Poland where Leon Bakst lived with his family. The Nazis forced them to live in a ghetto. There the guards once ordered young men, including the Bakst brothers, to dig two massive trenches just outside the ghetto walls. Two days later the Nazis murdered over a thousand of their neighbors, and the trenches became mass graves.
Leon and his brother were eventually separated from their family and sent to a Nazi Labor Camp. They managed to escape and joined a group of Jewish partisans—the famed Bielski Brothers Partisans. Often aided by the Soviets, the partisans destroyed German communication lines, intercepted trains and protected hundreds of others who could not fight.
Survivor and Partisan, Mike Jacobs
Born to Moshe and Dora Jakubowicz in Konin, Poland, Mendel Jakubowicz was the youngest of six children. Shortly after the Nazi occupation of Poland, the Jakubowicz family was forced to relocate to the ghetto in Ostrowiec. There “Mike” joined the resistance movement, aiding in derailing trains as well as buying guns for the underground. Sent to Auschwitz, he continued his resistance fashioning guns and passing them to the Sonderkommando who used them in an uprising. Mike survived a death march and was ultimately liberated from Gusen II a subcamp of Mauthausen.
Survivor and Partisan, Les Mittelman
Les Mittelman was born in Debrecen, Hungary, the third of 4 children. When the war began he enlisted in the Hungarian army as required of all Jewish men over 18. Jewish enlistees were sent to Hungarian forced labor battalions and severely mistreated. Les was forced to place land mines and undertake other dangerous tasks. Eventually, he escaped and joined partisans attached to the Polish Home Army. He blew up tunnels, train tracks and bridges to sabotage the Nazis, all while hiding his Jewish identity as he would have been killed by his fellow partisans. After the war, Les, with his wife Magda, also a survivor, made their way to Israel. There he again picked up arms to fight—this time for the Haganah—what became, in 1949, the army of the new state of Israel.
A full-house attended the April 23rd at Temple Emanu-El, Stern Chapel. If you were not present watch the website, DallasHolocaustMuseum.org for next year’s commemoration.