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San Diego's Yom HaShoah observance largest ever

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By Gerry Greber

Gerry Greber

LA JOLLA, California — San Diego’s Jewish community on Sunday, April 11, held its largest commemoration of the Holocaust in 65 years to remember and honor those who were victims or liberators during the Holocaust.  

Organized by Michael Bart, a son of Holocaust survivors, the ceremony at the Lawrence Family JCC paid particular attention to American GI’s who fought in WW2 including those who participated in the liberation of some of the concentration camps.

A movie presentation told of a gun battle with the Nazi guards at Dachau, in which all the Nazi guards at that concentration camp were killed. Sandy Lebman, who participated in the liberation of Dachau, was on hand for the presentation.

The movie and opportunity to meet Lebman brought to tears Ralph Ransenberg, who attended the ceremony with  his wife Marlene.  Like Lebman he had been an American GI in the European theatre, but Ransenberg never got to directly avenge his family against their Nazi persecutors.  His unit was among those that fought in northern Italy before going on to occupy Germany after the war.

Much of Ransenberg’s family had been murdered by the Nazis.  His father and the three youngest children perished at Theresienstadt.  A brother, Gunther, was executed at Auschwitz after being among a group of inmates who threw snowballs in fun at some girls who had hurled them at inmates repairing a railroad.   The other inmates weren’t Jewish and they were not punished. But Gunther was executed for “defiling” the Aryan race.  A remaining brother Fred, survived several concentration camps and now lives in South Carolina.

At a gathering after the event, Ransenberg met Lebman and they spoke with each other for some time.

The Yom HaShoah commemoration was noted in a City of San Diego proclamation  issued by San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders. And what a special day it turned out to be.  The 300-seat Garfield Auditorium was so packed, a special room with a large screen had to be opened to handle the overflowing crowd.

The guest speaker for the event was Stephen Smith, executive director of USC Shoah Foundation Institute who showed a moving film about people who had survived because their liberators arrived only slightly ahead of their intended execution dates.

Within the observance were candlelightings to memorialize the Six Million Jewish victims of the Holocaust, including 1.5 million children; the recitation of Kaddish, the singing of  El Moleh Rachamim, and an emotional rendering of HaTikvah (The Hope), which is today Israel’s National Anthem.

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Greber is a freelance writer based in Carlsbad, California.

One Response to “San Diego's Yom HaShoah observance largest ever”

  1. Sally Elbert says:

    Absolutely beautiful true and still very real story from Mr. Ransenberg shares and he still holds the memories that forever remain in his mind. So many young fools and old deny the Halocaust. It is these true meetings, actual accounts, photos, and video we see today with our own eyes that bring these real events to life. Those few like Mr. Ransenberg, Mr Lebman and others highly respected remain alive to bear witness of those long ago tragic times. May we still hang our heads and not forget the lives that were lost because of a psycotic man who convinced a nation to hate & they did. We all must stand strong and unite and never ever let us forget nor happen again.

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