Each is a symbol of the Holocaust, each remembered and recited at the Yom
Hashoah 2013 service of remembrance at Dallas’ Congregation Shearith Israel
on April 7, sponsored by the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and
“This is our memorial day…of unimaginable suffering,” said Mary Pat Higgins,
President and CEO of the Museum, in introductory remarks that followed the
procession of Holocaust Survivors, words of welcome by Rabbi William Gershon of
Shearith Israel and songs by Cantor Itzhak Zhrebker.
Five families spoke of their loved ones’ experience during the Holocaust—each
family suffered tremendous loss—while a sixth group promised to never let those
After each family spoke, they lit a symbolic torch—six in all were lit, symbolizing the
six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust. Inaugurated in 1953, Yom Hashoah
is also known as Holocaust Remembrance Day.
The boy is now in his late 80s, Leon Bakst. At age 15, Leon fought against the Nazis
with legendary partisan Tuvia Bielski, whose story was depicted in the Paramount
movie, Defiance (2008). Leon is the only Bielski Partisan living in Dallas, and of only
a handful of Jewish Partisans still living. Leon’s story is told in the documentary, The
Reunion (2011). Stacey Gaswirth spoke lovingly of her grandfather’s devotion to
family, friends and country. He was at her side.
On May 15, 1945, life began again for her mother (of Blessed Memory), Michelle
Mantel Bassichis said. It was the day she was liberated from Auschwitz by Allied
forces, Michelle told the 550 people in attendance at the Yom Hashoah service. “I
still have the blanket the soldiers put around my mother when they came to liberate
the camp,” said Michelle.
Mike Jacobs was 14 when the Nazis invaded his small Polish town in 1939. Two
months later, he and his family were packed into a boxcar with 100 other local
Jewish residents and taken to a Jewish ghetto. On his arm SS guards tattooed the
number “B4990.” But their father, sons Mark and Reuben said, would not be defined
by a tattoo. “…in my mind, I was still a free person,” Mike Jacobs, who was in
attendance in the audience, would say years later.
In April, 1943, Israel Prengler (of Blessed Memory), along with other Jews living in
Ludof, Poland, were rounded up for deportation by the Nazis. But her grandfather
and several other family members escaped to a brickyard where they were hidden
for seven weeks by a Catholic Polish family, said Lisa Ido. From the brickyard, they
moved to a farm run by a German woman who hid the family and other Jews until
liberation on July 27, 1944. Later, her family brought the Polish family who hid them
to Dallas, “so they could have a better life. To know what it means to be free.”
When her father (of Blessed Memory), along with other family members, were
deported to Auschwitz, a miracle occurred at the front gate, said Bina Frishman
Domb. A teacher from her father’s school stationed at the gate to document entrants
recognized him, quickly changed her father’s identity on paper to that of a non-
Jew, and saved his life in an instant. Her mother (of Blessed Memory) was also a
Holocaust survivor and like her father, shared their stories. “We promise to never
forget,” Bina said.
The last group to light a torch made a pledge—believed to be the first of its kind at
a Yom Hashoah ceremony. Melissa Rubenstein Gendason, Director of the Southwest
Region of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, stood next to her colleagues at
the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance. Working as
collaborators and partners, the professional staff of the two Museums pledged “to
keep the eternal flame of memory burning brightly.”