Southern California Jews and non-Jews marked Holocaust Remembrance Day together at numerous events, including one that saw German teenagers and Jewish and Hispanic schoolchildren under the same tent, listening to their peers recite the words of Anne Frank.
"It is very emotional," said Frederick Just, 17, one of 12 German teens visiting Los Angeles this week who joined 2,500 Catholic, Jewish and public school students at the April 20 Holocaust remembrance event at the Los Angeles Holocaust Monument at Pan Pacific Park. "I felt treated fairly, because you don't blame us for the mistakes of others, and you include us in your service. That touched me."
The youth remembrance concluded several days marking Yom HaShoah at synagogues, cemeteries and parks throughout Southern California, most of them on Sunday, April 18, the global Holocaust Remembrance Day. That Sunday saw a Hillside Memorial Park morning service honoring Hungarian Jewish resistance fighter Hannah Senesh, while in the evening there was a reading of the poem, "Babi Yar," before about 150 people in a West Hollywood auditorium, with gay and lesbian couples sitting near elderly Russian Jews.
The Los Angeles citywide Yom HaShoah event attracted about 5,000 people to the Fairfax District's Pan Pacific Park on a cool Sunday afternoon. The remembrance combined pro-Israel speeches with memories of the 60th anniversary of the Nazi deportations of 600,000 Hungarian Jews.
"Wherever a seed of hate is planted, its growth can be stunted with a message of growth and compassion," said Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who inspired the crowd when he said his first foreign trip as governor will be to Jerusalem for the May groundbreaking of a new Museum of Tolerance.
After speaking, Schwarzenegger spent several minutes shaking hands in the event's seating area, where he met 74-year-old Auschwitz survivor Helen Gorelik. "I felt very comfortable with him," said Gorelik.
Hungarian Jewish survivors who spoke at the two-hour remembrance included Rep. Tom Lantos (D-San Mateo), who praised Israel's targeted killing last weekend of Hamas leader Abdel Aziz al-Rantisi.
"They [terrorists] are on the losing end of this battle, and don't you forget it," said Lantos, who added that Holocaust observances must honor Judaism's past by preserving its future. "We don't just want commemoration. We want the right of the people of the State of Israel to live in security and peace, which is all they want."
Israeli Consul General Yuval Rotem also fused Yom HaShoah themes with Israel's defense needs and the global rise of anti-Semitism.
"We are reminded that once again, the Jews can be abandoned to their own fate," Rotem said. "During the Holocaust, our fate rested with others. Today and for the future ... we will unilaterally defend ourselves."
Prior to the Los Angeles remembrance, Lantos attended Hungary's extensive 60th anniversary Jewish deportation remembrances. Listening to Lantos at Pan Pacific Park were local politicians, including Los Angeles Mayor James Hahn, as well as Austrian and Hungarian diplomats, including Hungarian Ambassador András Simonyi and Hungarian Foreign Minister Laszlo Kovacs. Kovacs also spoke at the April 19 Yom HaShoah service at the Museum of Tolerance, which posthumously honored Iranian diplomat Abdol Hossein Sardari, who rescued Jews in Paris.
The April 20 youth remembrance had students from 25 schools who were brought by 60 buses hired by survivor, philanthropist and real estate developer Jona Goldrich.
The 90-minute event tested the students' short attention spans, but they became silent listening to Goldrich, who said of the Holocaust, "I sometimes don't believe that it happened myself."