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Horrors of the Holocaust remembered in Queens

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Exactly 60 years later, the Forest Hills resident helped Queens mark the anniversary of the end of the Holocaust with equal parts solemnity, sorrow, redemption and even some joy at a boroughwide event at Queensborough Community College in Bayside.With a focus on honoring the soldiers and civilians involved in the fight against Nazism during World War II, speakers at the Monday event thanked their heroes and called for peace."We always associate the word 'remember' with the Holocaust, and we thought it would be a very good idea to remember the heroes," said Jan Fenster, president of the Queens Jewish Community Council. "We remember what you did, and we thank you very deeply from the bottoms of our hearts."Others pressed the importance of the hard lessons culled from the Holocaust."We must never, ever allow this to happen again," said Borough President Helen Marshall. "We never forget what is behind us. Let us pray that man will learn.""There are really no words to express the horrors of the Holocaust," said City Councilman David Weprin (D-Hollis). "But if we don't learn from our history, if we don't remember, we will forget."Many of the 250 attendees were war veterans, some representing the Jewish War Veterans."Between Egypt and 2005, there have been days, weeks, months, years in which we have suffered," said Rabbi Michael Miller, the event's keynote speaker and executive vice president of the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, referring to the Jews being driven out of Egypt in Biblical times.With emotion suffused into every word, Miller told the veterans, "but you saved us. You liberated us. You redeemed us."The event's solemn tone was lifted by the singing of Cantor Sol Zim, who led the audience in a rousing rendition of 'Am Yisrael Chai,' a song praising the spirit of Israel.Oakland Gardens resident Douglas Fairtile, honored for his role in helping liberate concentration camps as an American soldier, talked about what he saw at one camp."I saw these human skeletons walking out," Fairtile said. "This was a really, horrible thing that we should never be allowed to forget."And when Telzak took the stage, she recounted her childhood in a Czech town near the Carpathian Mountains that was torn apart when in 1944, she and her family were deported. First sent to Auschwitz, as healthy teenagers Telzak and her sister were later shipped to Dachau as laborers.As American forces approached, Nazi soldiers rounded up Telzak and others and marched them toward the Tyrolean Mountains on the infamous Death March."On May 2, 1945, we woke up in a forest and found all of our German guards had disappeared," she said. The group waited in a bunker until they saw "American tanks rumbling in the streets," Tezlak said. "Then we knew we were safe."The remembrance was organized by a consortium of community and educational groups, including the Queens Jewish Community Council, Queensborough's Holocaust Resource Center, the Samuel Field/Bay Terrace YM and YWHA, the Queens Jewish Historical Society, the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty, the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, the Northeast Queens Jewish Community Council, and the Queens County Council of the Jewish War Veterans. In addition to Weprin, City Councilwoman Melinda Katz (D-Forest Hills) and a representative from the Consulate General of Israel were present.Reach reporter Sophia Chang by e-mail at news@timesledger.com, or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.

Posted 7:04 pm, October 10, 2011
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