B’nai B’rith International commemorated International Holocaust Remembrance Day with virtual and in-person events around the world, with an emphasis on firsthand survivors’ stories.
B’nai B’rith held its annual observance virtually on Jan. 26. The program, titled “Each Life a World: Survivors in Their Own Words,” was hosted by B’nai B’rith CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin and featured Ivan Lefkovits, a Holocaust survivor from Czechoslovakia (now Slovakia), and Kelley Szany, senior vice president of the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center.
Mariaschin said this year’s program was dedicated to the need to hear directly from Holocaust survivors themselves about their experiences during the Shoah.
Lefkovits shared personal testimony of his survival of both the Ravensbrück—where he, his mother and older brother were taken in 1944—and Bergen-Belsen Nazi concentration camps.
Szany spoke with Mariaschin about the museum’s innovative exhibitions, including Virtual Reality and Holograms, that use new technology to preserve and tell the stories of Holocaust survivors.
Mariaschin also delivered remarks at a remembrance event at the Italian Embassy in Washington, D.C. The event, jointly hosted by the embassy and the Italian Cultural Institute, featured the screening of the movie “Bocche Inutili” (“Useless Mouths”), which tells the story of two Jewish sisters and their experiences in a concentration camp. The film’s director Claudio Uberti, Italian historian Ana Foa and Italian Ambassador to the United States Mariangela Zappia gave remarks.
“With the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the process of rebuilding Jewish life, of rebuilding Europe, of rebuilding democracy… of rebuilding humanity, began,” Mariaschin said. “This process, we hope, will never end. All of society must bear the responsibility to uphold the memory of the Shoah, even though none of us may ever be able to fully comprehend the enormity of what happened.”
B’nai B’rith U.N. Affairs Chair Millie Magid, Director of U.N. and Intercommunal Affairs David Michaels and Assistant Director of U.N. Affairs Oren Drori attended the United Nations’ memorial ceremony, “Home and Belonging,” on Jan. 27, held at the U.N. General Assembly Hall.
In Europe, B’nai B’rith co-hosted the 2023 Holocaust Remembrance Conference, “Remembering the past. Shaping the future,” with the European Union Commission, the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance and the Swedish Presidency Council of the EU. B’nai B’rith was represented by Stéphane Teicher, permanent representative to UNESCO and the Council of Europe; Alina Bricman, director of European Union Affairs; and Samuel Holzmannhofer, legal affairs officer.
A Holocaust survivor, Henriette Kretz, gave testimony at the event. There were also remarks from Margaritis Schinas, European Commission vice-president for promoting our European way of life; Paulina Brandberg, Swedish minister for gender equality and deputy minister for employment; Ambassador Ann Bernes, chair of the Swedish Presidency of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA); and Professor Yehuda Bauer, IHRA honorary chair and a distinguished historian and Holocaust survivor.
Ahead of Holocaust Remembrance Day, the B’nai B’rith EU Affairs team partnered with the Yad Vashem School and the World Union of Jewish Students for a three-part program called, “Young Ambassadors of Holocaust Remembrance.” Over two weeks, participants in the IMPACT: Emerging Leaders Fellowship, a virtual fellowship program for Jewish students and young professionals, heard stories from Holocaust survivors; learned about modern methods of memorialization, particularly on social media; and were tasked to share the stories they learned with their peers.
In Latin America, representatives of B’nai B’rith Panama, B’nai B’rith Ecuador and B’nai B’rith Uruguay attended commemorations held by their country’s congresses. Luis Almagro, secretary general of the Organization of American States, delivered the keynote address at the Panamanian Congress.
B’nai B’rith Chile and the Jewish Community of Chile hosted an event in the Foreign Ministry, featuring Foreign Minister Antonia Urrejola as keynote speaker. Urrejola said that “no matter how painful it can be, all the world must remember the tragedy of the Holocaust.”
In Mexico, in addition to the government’s commemoration, B’nai B’rith presented a lecture, “Holocaust, the paradigm of genocides,” by Israeli professor and writer Mario Sinay. The event was hosted by the National University of Mexico.
At a Jan. 29 ceremony marking International Holocaust Remembrance Day, the B’nai B’rith World Center-Jerusalem and the Committee to Recognize Jewish Rescuers During the Holocaust will present their joint Jewish Rescuers Citation to 10 rescuers, all of them posthumously. Speakers at the ceremony will include Alan Schneider, director of the B’nai B’rith World Center; Aryeh Barnea, chairman of the Committee to Recognize the Heroism of Jewish Rescuers During the Holocaust; Yaakov Asher, CEO of Moreshet – Mordechai Anielevich memorial institute; and H.E. Radu Ioanid, ambassador of Romania to Israel, along with relatives of the rescuers.