"So many. . . . "
It was a common reaction Sunday to the sight of 1.5 million pennies, each representing a child who died in Nazi-controlled countries during World War II. The 16-foot-long display of pennies, weighing 8,000 pounds, was part of a youth-focused observance of Yom Ha-Shoah--the Day of Remembrance for Victims of the Holocaust--held at Temple Beth Emet in Anaheim. About 550 people, including survivors, their children and grandchildren, lit 500 candles labeled with the names of children who died in a 1943 massacre in Poland.
Some of the survivors helped light five other candles for children who--often separated from parents and siblings--died elsewhere: in gas chambers and crematoriums, ditches, forced marches, ghettos and forests, as well as those who survived in Christian convents and monasteries, but were converted and "lost to the Jewish people forever."
A sixth candle was lit for the survivors who "though emotionally and psychologically marked for life . . . have been able to build families of their own and who have hope in the human race. . . . "
Slides, some faded and unfocused, of Jewish children before and during the war were flashed on the wall of the synagogue as the congregation listened to a folk song by Peter Yarrow: "Don't let the light go out, it's lasted for so many years; Don't let the light go out, let it shine through our love and our tears."
With the Community Children's Chorus, made up of students from Hebrew day schools and Sunday schools throughout Orange County, they joined in singing "Hatikvah," the national anthem of Israel, and recited the Mourner's Kaddish, the traditional Prayer for the Dead. For Yom HaShoah, the Kaddish is interspersed with names of some of the ghettos, concentration camps and massacres of Germany and Eastern Europe: Auschwitz, Buchenwald, Babi Yar, Lodz, Treblinka, Bergen-Belsen, Sachsenhausen.
For the past 35 years, Jews have memorialized the millions of Holocaust victims on the 27th day of Nisan on the Jewish Calendar which falls today. The number and scope of observances have increased in recent years with the activism of children of Holocaust survivors, said Cheri Kessner, co-chair of the observance called "Echoes of the Children," sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Orange County. Other observances are scheduled nationwide this week.
The pennies were collected by 3,000 Orange County Hebrew schoolchildren from their families, Kessner said. Interest from the $15,000 will go toward Holocaust education programs for Jews and the general public. "There are an amazing number of people who don't know about the Holocaust and many who think it won't happen again," said Rena Wolfson, co-chairman of Second Generation, an organization of survivors' children.
About 450 children also participated in Creative Expressions--a countywide Yom HaShoah project of Holocaust poetry and art. First place was awarded to Debra Grossman, 9, of Irvine. She wrote:
I hear the echoes of the children,
Lying in their grave.
The Jews could not save them,
They were the ones nobody could save . . .
"Where are my parents?"
I hear them scream.
They never had a chance to rebuild their dream . . .