Holocaust survivors speak at Howard Beach memorial

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Nearly 6 million Jews were killed by the Nazis during the Holocaust, but Polish survivor Eddie Weinstein said keeping their memories alive is the greatest way to declare victory over the evils that occurred.

“Every story is different. Every story must be told so future generations can know,” the 85-year-old told members of the Rockwood Park Jewish Center in Howard Beach Sunday.

Weinstein’s recollections highlighted the center’s Yom Hashoah celebration, which reunited other Holocaust survivors and paid respect to those who had to live through the atrocities. The event for the day of remembrance, celebrated across the borough and world, began with a lighting of candles by four Holocaust survivors.

Rabbi Tzvi Berkowitz said that although the number of Holocaust survivors has been dwindling over the last couple of years, they remain pillars of the community for their strength in confronting unimaginable violence.

“It is one thing to survive, it’s another to recollect and articulate what you’ve been through,” he said.

Weinstein, who grew up in a town 75 miles east of Warsaw before the Nazis invaded Poland in 1939, said his experiences in the Treblinka extermination camp have haunted him all of his life. He recalled how he and his brother saw their mother being taken away to the camp in 1942 in a separate train car, only to never see her again.

When the train carrying him and his brother reached its destination, Weinstein got his first glimpse of the violence that would be committed at the concentration camp when a group of parched passengers tried to get some sustenance.

“People jumped out to try to get water, but all were shot,” he said.

Weinstein became a victim himself when he was shot in the chest by a Nazi officer while waiting in line for water, but he was saved when his brother took him and hid him in a building filled with clothing. When Weinstein was strong enough to leave the building, he learned his brother had been killed.

Eventually, the soldiers put Weinstein to work cleaning up and cremating the remains of prisoners who were murdered, many of whom were children and babies.

“It’s more than 67 years since it happened, but I still remember their faces, their big, beautiful eyes,” he said.

The survivor eventually escaped the prison to a Jewish ghetto in Losice, where he was reunited with his father and the two were on the run hiding from the Nazis. After the nation was liberated by the Red Army in 1944, Weinstein joined the Polish army and fought against the Nazis.

When the war ended, he and his father moved to Brooklyn, where Weinstein raised his family and continues to thrive.

“My grandchildren are the final solution,” he said.

U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Forest Hills), who attended the service with fellow Queens elected officials state Sen. Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach) and state Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer (D-Far Rockaway), commended Weinstein for his bravery during the war and after it. He encouraged all Holocaust survivors to continue to tell their stories in order to prevent similar genocides from happening again.

“We have to continue the services from one year to the next,” he said.

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at ipereira@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

Updated 5:54 pm, October 10, 2011
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