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CRISIS IN YUGOSLAVIA

Images of Kosovo Color Holocaust Remembrance

Southland: Participants at annual event connect with atrocities in Yugoslavia. Singer donates $10,000 for relief.

April 14, 1999|JULIE HA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

It wasn't difficult conveying the relevance of Yom Hashoah, or Holocaust Remembrance Day, to the hundreds gathered at Pan Pacific Park in Los Angeles on Tuesday. Many said they need only see the daily news to realize that ethnic hatred lives on.

This day, it would have been enough to gather and remember the 6 million Jewish lives lost in the Holocaust, said event organizer Gary Schiller.

"However, the idea of ethnic purity confronts us every night on TV," he said. "This year, we have a special reason to be here, because we see the same thing is happening again."

Several hundred students from local high schools joined Holocaust survivors and Jewish community groups in commemorating one of history's worst crimes against humanity. But participants made a point of connecting that commemoration with ongoing events in Yugoslavia, where half a million ethnic Albanians have been expelled from their homes in Kosovo in the past three weeks alone.

"[Today] is about the Holocaust, to make sure it doesn't happen again and to help the people in Kosovo," said Chimzi Wami, 14, of the Los Angeles Center for Enriched Studies. "It's not right for this to happen, for people to be killed innocently because of their religion, because of what they believe in."

Students of all ethnicities were the target audience of the annual event, said Jewish Federation President John Fishel, because "unless they understand the inhumanity of man to man that occurred in a very thoughtful, calculated way 60 years ago, it will repeat itself."

That lesson was not lost on the young audience.

Many students said they were most moved by the stories shared by two Holocaust survivors who were children during the war.

"When the woman said the [Nazi] soldiers were throwing the babies into the wall, I imagined that happening to my 2-year-old brother," said Levid Camacho, 15, from Hamilton High School. "I'm like, how can anyone ever do that--kill 6 million people . . . just because they're not like them?"

Holocaust survivor Nathan Pollack, 69, of Los Angeles said he hopes that the teenagers left the event remembering not necessarily the gruesome details of the Holocaust, but the philosophy that fueled the killings.

"This is what can happen when people believe themselves to be superior," he said. "Once anybody thinks they're better and everyone else is inferior, forget it, it snowballs . . . Look at Kosovo."

After the program, singer Barry Manilow presented a $10,000 check to the Kosovo relief fund of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee on behalf of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles.

"We have to do something," Manilow said, "because if we've learned anything this century, it's 'Never again.' "

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