Community observes Yom HaShoah


More than 800 people attended the annual community commemoration of Yom HaShoah held this year at United Hebrew Congregation. “Broken Glass, Shattered Lives: The 70th Anniversary of Kristallnacht” featured the poignant eyewitness testimony of local survivors who shared their memories of that strategic turning point during the Holocaust.

The event began in the late afternoon with the reading of the names of the victims of the Holocaust. “Unto Every Person There Is A Name,” an international program, was organized by local B’nai B’rith Director Michelle Gralnick.

The evening program began with the sounding of the shofar by Rabbi Mark Fasman of Shaare Zedek Synagogue followed by the Holocaust Torah processional.

Rabbis Fasman, John Franken (Congregation Temple Israel), Andrea Goldstein (Shaare Emeth Congregation), Mordecai Miller (Brith Sholom Kneseth Israel), Daniel Plotkin (B’nai El Congregation), Neal Rose (Congregation B’nai Amoona) and Brigitte Rosenberg (United Hebrew) carried in the Holocaust Torahs housed at their individual congregations and placed them in an honored place on the bimah. Pianist Daniel Schene and members of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra: Lorraine Glass-Harris, Warren Goldberg, Leonid Gotman, Catherine Lehr and Wendy Rosen provided music during the processional and throughout the service.


Rabbi Howard Kaplansky of United Hebrew welcomed attendees.

“We gather together to recall Kristallnacht and the Shoah,” Kaplansky said. “We seek to remember so that the experiences, suffering and tears of the victims may never be seen among our people or any other people ever again.”

Jewish Federation of St. Louis President Sheila Greenbaum gave the statistics surrounding Kristallnacht and emphasized the importance of hearing the stories of the victims and the eyewitness accounts of the survivors to ensure the tragedy of the Shoah is never repeated.

“Their heroic stories and their endurance to face their oppressors inspire every generation,” Greenbaum said.

Excerpts from the eyewitness accounts from local survivors were included in the written program for the event and the audience heard the recorded audio testimony of survivor Harry Berger. Holocaust Museum and Learning Center Council Chair Marci Rosenberg acknowledged and thanked Vida “Sister” Prince for her work with the museum’s Oral History Project.

“Thanks to her dedication we have many of our survivors’ testimonies on audio and video for future generations,” Marci said.

In addition, survivors Senta Cann, Oscar Cohen, Hedy Epstein, Vernon Fischer, Guenter Goldsmith, Paul Gusdorf, Siegmund Halpern, Charles Klotzer, Curtis Mann, George Spooner, Eve Wilde and Kenneth Wilde spoke to the audience and shared their eyewitness testimony to the events of Kristallnacht.

The survivor’s stories were the same and yet uniquely different as they recalled the horrors surrounding Kristallnacht. They told of seeing their fathers, brothers and uncles taken away and returning weeks or months later thin and exhausted — if they returned at all. Several told of the ultimate sacrifice and desperation of parents who sent their children into hiding or on the Kindertransport to England.

“Thanks to my parents, they literally gave me life a second time,” Epstein said.

Many remembered seeing businesses being destroyed and synagogues in flames.

“A neighbor told me they were burning the temple,” Spooner said. “I saw the fire as I approached and I saw the Torahs being dragged into the street and burned.”

HMLC Director of Education and Curator Dan Reich thanked the survivors for their courage and strength as they relived the horror of those events by sharing their experiences.

“Our survivors are treasures for our community,” Reich said. “They are the reason our museum exists.”

The evening concluded with the lighting of six candles in memory of the six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust. The candles were lit by survivors Ben Fainer, Jane Guber, Liz Lippa, Cherna Paladnik and Sara Wolf. Alyssa Guller, granddaughter of survivors Frances and Abe Gersten, lit the sixth candle as the representative of the St. Louis Descendents of the Holocaust, a group for children and grandchildren of survivors. Survivor Marie Cori laid a rose beside the candles to recognize the importance of the rescuers who risked their own lives to save Jews.

A seventh candle was lit by the St. Louis Save Darfur Coalition’s Chair Lesley Levin and Community Educator Nhial Tutlam. The candle was to remind everyone they cannot turn a blind eye to the tragedies still taking place today.

“We must take action and end the genocide that is still occurring today even as we commemorate this event which took place 70 years ago,” HMLC Director Jean Cavender said.

The Yom HaShoah community commemoration was coordinated by Event Chair Kent Hirschfelder, HMLC Council Chair Marci Rosenberg and HMLC Director of Education and Curator Dan Reich. The annual Yom HaShoah observance is underwritten by the Wolf/Najman Memorial.

The event was hosted by the St. Louis Holocaust Museum and Learning Center in Memory of Gloria M. Goldstein (HMLC), a department of the Jewish Federation of St. Louis.