Yom HaShoah – Holocaust Remembrance Day

Written by Matthew Erlich
Member – Speakers’ Bureau for the Holocaust Center for Humanity
Board Member – Temple Beth El
Former Board Member – Associated Ministriesholocaust photo

Felicia Lewkowicz was a once a young girl.

Born in Krakow, Poland, in 1924, she had six siblings, a father, Zygmund, who worked as a carpenter and a mother, Rozalia, who worked doing housework for other families. Of course, Felicia had her beloved nanny Helcha.

What happened next is the story of the Nazi genocide known as the Holocaust. Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, is marked from sundown to sundown, May 4-5 this year. The remembrance began in Israel in 1953 and was selected between the date when the Warsaw uprising began, and Israeli independence day.

It is difficult to relay my mother’s Holocaust experience in a blog post. In some ways, it’s unfair to her memory and to the six million who died. How can the horror be discussed in a mere 300 words. The answer: It can’t – nor can the lessons of the Holocaust. But, we must try…

In Felicia’s case, as a young girl of 16, the Krakow ghetto was established and her family split. She managed to escape to Vienna, where she was ultimately arrested and taken to the Nazi death camp Auschwitz in August 1944. There is no way to describe the living conditions to a modern audience. In about October 1944, she was transferred to Bergen-Belsen, a camp in Germany. It is here she found a friend from Krakow, Estia, who saved her life when Felicia suffered from typhus.

The British liberated the camp in April 1945, when Felicia was barely 21. She eventually met the man who would be my dad, Arthur Erlich, at a Displaced Person’s camp. Felicia also found her eldest sister, Lola, who had left Krakow and eloped to Paris. The rest of her family either died when the Krakow ghetto was liquidated, in another town called Tarnow, or in Auschwitz. We don’t really know. For his part, Arthur, also from Krakow, was studying in England when the war broke out. He lost everyone in his family except his brother.

What did my mother teach me as a result of the Holocaust: Challenge authority; fight for fairness and against bullies; help people in need.

Hey, that actually fits as a Tweet – I guess some things are possible.


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