By Stephen E. Lipken
A steel-gray sky heightened the solemnity of the 25th Annual Westchester Countywide Yom Hashoah Holocaust commemoration on Monday, April 24, presented by the Holocaust and Human Rights Education Center (HHREC) and Westchester Jewish Council (WJC) at the Garden of Remembrance, 148 Martine Avenue, White Plains.
Over 350 members of the White Plains and surrounding Jewish communities attended the Commemoration including County Executive Robert Astorino and Congressman Eliot Engel.
The program began with a Rescued Holocaust Torah Procession, followed by the Westchester Day School Choir.
“This garden was erected in 1992 to commemorate the Holocaust in Westchester County,” HHREC Executive Director Millie Jasper said. “Every year on Yom Hashoah we gather and think about the Holocaust…We think about the survivors…in hopes that we bring to light the meaning of this important day…”
Holocaust Survivor Esther (Zucker) Geizhals, 87, Larchmont recounted privations that she suffered from when she was 10 years old in Lodz, Poland. “We were slave laborers for 4 ½ years.
“In August 1944, the ghetto was liquidated and we were sent to Auschwitz,” Geizhals continued. “They dehumanized and tortured us.”
Geizhals was sent to Bergen-Belsen six weeks later. “We slept in tents in the ice and snow.”
She slept next to a Hungarian woman for warmth. “In the morning she was dead.”
“We didn’t resemble human beings. We were skeletons.” After escaping a death march, she met a “boyfriend,” Benek Geizhals at a German American Zone Displaced Persons camp. They were married for 51 years.
“I just want to thank all our clergy and lay leaders who took the time to bring these important Torah scrolls here,” WJC President Paul Warhit concluded. “These scrolls are the foundation upon which our people continue to live…Jewish people have to balance between remembering and dwelling upon the past.
“We spend most of our energy focusing on the future and the fact that our Jewish community is thriving; Israel’s thriving is testimony that we are a forward-looking people. Today is an opportunity to remember those who came before us…”