September 24, 2018

Honoring Resistance

Countless acts of defiance and overwhelming examples of bravery, protest and resistance during the Holocaust were front and center this year at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center’s 34th annual community Yom HaShoah program.

Held on April 11, founding director of the USC Shoah Foundation Center for Advanced Genocide Research Wolf Gruner spoke on the topic of “Defiance and Protest: Forgotten Individual Jewish Resistance in Nazi Germany.”

Gruner, who is also the Shapell-Guerin chair in Jewish Studies and professor of history at USC, spoke of the discoveries following a 10-year research project that includes new sources, such as Berlin police logbooks, trial materials and video testimonials from survivors.

“Countless acts of defiance and protests emerged from the files,” he said. “[These acts] can be found in all aspects of the Jewish population, regardless of gender, age, education, socialization or social status. … It was much more widespread than we ever expected.”

Hundreds of attendees packed the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center Harvey Morse Auditorium as Rabbi Jason Weiner, senior rabbi and manager of the Cedars-Sinai Spiritual Care Department, delivered the invocation, and a number of singers performed an operatic version of “Oseh Shalom.” Recording artist Marina accompanied the vocalists on piano. The event also featured a candlelighting ceremony for the victims of the Shoah.

“A lot of people were crying and it was very emotional,” Marina — who goes by her first name only — told the Journal in an interview after the event.

Various Yom HaShoah commemorations took place across Los Angeles last week.

Elected officials, survivors and additional community leaders, including Nancy Rubin, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, and Galit Prince, a third-generation survivor and member of the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust (LAMOTH) board, appeared on April 15 at the museum’s annual Yom HaShoah commemoration at Pan Pacific Park.

“It is important to include these courageous acts [of defiance] in the general narrative of Nazi persecution of the Jews.” — Wolf Gruner

Assemblymember Richard Bloom and L.A. City Councilman Paul Koretz were among the attendees seated under a canopy erected in the park. Outside the canopy, members of Hatzolah — the volunteer Jewish medical emergency response organization — waited in one of their trucks nearby, ready to provide aid to anybody in need.

Bloom attended the ceremony with his wife, Robbie Black, whose German-born father served in the U.S. Coast Guard during the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor.

Bloom told the Journal he appreciated the ceremony, in particular survivors David Lenga and Henry Slucki’s performance of the Jewish partisan’s song, “Zog Nit Keinmol,” (The Partisan Song) which, he said, demonstrated that the ceremony celebrated a variety of political viewpoints, including those on the left.

Additional participants in the program included Valley Beth Shalom Cantor Phil Baron, who led attendees in reciting the Mourner’s Kaddish and Gary Schiller, honorary director at LAMOTH.

“We cannot deny the institutions or commemorations like this one, the noble intent of their creators, but we must acknowledge their limited scope,” Schiller said. “Instead we should look at the personal and the impact of memory on those who have spent their lives in an attempt to remember.”

Two days earlier, on April 13, Father Patrick Desbois, president and founder of Yahad in Unum, a French organization dedicated to discovering the mass graves of Jews killed by the Nazis, attempted to shed light on the stories of so many individuals who died during the war. Visiting from France, and appearing at the Beverly Hills Synagogue for a Yom HaShoah dinner, he spoke about his organization’s work, as detailed in his new book, “In Broad Daylight: The Secret Procedures Behind the Holocaust by Bullets.”

This year marked 75 years since the anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.

Commemorations, including those organized by Cedars-Sinai and LAMOTH, highlighted the importance of remembering Jewish resistance during the Shoah.

“It is important to include these courageous acts,” Gruner said, “in the general narrative of Nazi persecution of the Jews.”