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Jewish educator gives Remembrance Day talk

YOUNGSTOWN — For generations, Jews have faced abject racism and antisemitism, both of which helped plant the seeds for the atrocities many of them faced during World War II.

Others, however, found the courage and strength to rebel against the Nazis, an educator and expert on the Holocaust said.

“They should be respected and remembered,” Marom Shmueli, the Youngstown Area Jewish Federation’s community shaliach, said.

Shaliach is a term that refers to being an Israeli emissary.

In his virtual presentation Thursday, titled “Running Away from the Worst,” Shmueli spoke largely about his family’s escape from Europe during the Holocaust, along with stories of those who didn’t make it out.

The 45-minute talk, hosted by the Jewish Community Relations Council of the Youngstown Area Jewish Federation, also was to commemorate International Holocaust Remembrance Day on Thursday.

The United Nations General Assembly declared Jan. 27 as a day of remembrance to honor the estimated 6 million Jews who were victims of the Holocaust, along with other victims of Nazism. Thursday also marked the 77th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp in 1945, noted Bonnie Deutsch Burdman, the Jewish Federation’s executive director of government affairs and community outreach.

It’s also vital to develop educational programs to prevent future genocides, she said.

Auschwitz-Birkenau, often referred to as “Auschwitz II,” opened in the early 1940s and was the largest of more than 40 camps and sub-camps that comprised the Auschwitz complex.

About 1 million people died in the camp, more than 90 percent of whom were Jews. In addition, most of the estimated 70,000 Poles who died or were killed at the complex perished in Birkenau, along with an additional 20,000 or so Soviet prisoners of war and other nationalities, according to www.auschwitz.org.

Auschwitz originally was conceived as a detention center mainly for Polish citizens after Germany annexed Poland in 1939, but when Hitler’s Final Solution became part of Nazi policy, the Auschwitz complex was deemed ideal to be used instead as death camps. the website states.

Shmueli talked about his great-grandparents, who met in 1918, and other family members, some of whom refused to talk about their experiences.

During his presentation, Shmueli showed footage of Adolph Eichmann, often thought of as the architect of the Holocaust, who was tried in 1961 on charges of crimes against humanity, convicted in December 1961 and hanged June 1, 1962. The trial, which included testimony from many of those who lost loved ones in the camps, also significantly changed the way the Holocaust was remembered, he explained.

Between 1942 and 1944, Eichmann helped organize the deportation of Jews from Slovakia, France, Belgium, the Netherlands and northern Italy. From April to July 1944, Eichmann and his aides deported an estimated 440,000 Hungarian Jews to the camps before fleeing to Argentina shortly after the war’s end and living under several aliases.

Shmueli also discussed Viktor E. Frankl, an Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist who survived the Holocaust and wrote perhaps his most famous book, “Man’s Search for Meaning.” In it, Frankl shares his experiences in the Theresienstadt concentration camp and how he made it out by trying to find personal meaning, which also gave him the added will to live through it.

In addition, Shmueli showed haunting images of some of the camps decades after the war and people visiting the sites in remembrance of those who were killed there. Such grim journeys also have increased many people’s understanding of the harmful effects of racism, he continued.

Today, Shmueli and his family feel safer and don’t fear being attacked or killed, he added.

Shmueli, who lives in Moshav Tzofar in southern Israel, works largely with the Jewish Community Center of Youngstown’s youth, adult and senior programming. He also assists with the Jewish Community Relations Council’s community-outreach efforts. As an educator, Shmueli has worked at summer camps and as a private instructor.

For about 10 years, he was with a large youth movement in Israel called Bnei Hamoshavim. Shmauli also served as an Iron Dome commander and staff sergeant in the Air Force Israeli Air Defense Command.

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