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Survivor says world should heed Holocaust lessons

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Abraham H. Foxman, national director emeritus of the Anti-Defamtion League, lights a candle during the 2019 Yom HaShoah Holocaust Remembrance program on May 5 at Bishop McGuinness High School. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman]
Abraham H. Foxman, national director emeritus of the Anti-Defamtion League, lights a candle during the 2019 Yom HaShoah Holocaust Remembrance program on May 5 at Bishop McGuinness High School. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman]

A nationally renowned Holocaust survivor said there are important lessons to be gleaned from the Nazi's mass murder of Jews and the world's reaction to it.

Abraham H. Foxman, national director emeritus of the Anti-Defamation League, spoke at the 2019 Yom HaShoah Holocaust Remembrance program on May 5 at Bishop McGuinness High School in Oklahoma City.

Sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Greater Oklahoma City, in partnership with the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City and Bishop McGuinness, the metro-area event, like similar ones all over the U.S., come at a time when the American Jewish community is in mourning for lives lost in attacks at two Jewish houses of worship in the last six months.The Anti-Defamation League's annual Audit of Anti-Semitic incidents, released April 30, reported that 1,879 attacks against Jews and Jewish institutions were recorded across the country in 2018, making it the third-highest year on record since the organization began tracking such data in the 1970s. The report said the attacks represented a doubling of anti-Semitic assaults and the single deadliest attack against the Jewish community in American history, when a gunman killed 11 people in October 2018 at a Pittsburgh synagogue. More recently, an attacker opened fire on a Southern California synagogue in April, killing one woman and wounding three others, including the house of worship's rabbi.

Foxman's words seemed to resonate with the crowd of about 500 people who listened intently as he shared his own personal story.

He also shared some of the powerful lessons from the past that the global community should heed today.

Foxman said the world knew what Hitler and his regime were doing in Nazi-occupied Europe even without the round-the-clock news cycle of today's modern world.

"There was no CNN, no 24-hour news or news satellites, but they knew how many Jews were killed every day," he said.

Thus, he said the first lesson from the Holocaust was educating oneself about it and other types of anti-Semitism and bigotry.

But knowing, though important, is not enough, he said.

The second lesson gleaned from the genocide is the significance of taking a stand against such injustice and hate. Lives depend upon it.

"Wherever good people said no, Jews lived," Foxman said.

He said small countries stood up to the Nazis "and yet it wasn't the great democracies that said no." The Dominican Republican, he said, saved 40,000 Jews, while Bulgaria blocked the deportation of 50,000 Jews residing in that nation because Bulgarians balked at the Nazi's anti-Semitic measures.

Often one or two people by themselves made a huge difference, Foxman said, and that kind of heroism still applies today. He noted that German businessman Oskar Schindler, whose story was featured in the Oscar-winning movie "Schindler's List," saved more than 1,000 Jews.

Foxman said his own Roman Catholic nanny came to his family's rescue and saved his life. She hid him in plain sight in Nazi-occupied Poland, raising him in her Catholic faith during his early childhood years until his parents returned for him after World War II.

"I stand here today because there was a lady who could barely read and write — she didn't weigh it every single day — but she risked her life for me," Foxman said.

Universal mandate

He said it's also important to remember that hateful actions often are preceded by hateful words.

"The Holocaust did not begin with gas chambers. It began with words — ugly, hateful words that demonized, dehumanized and debased Jews, and those words became ugly, hateful deeds. The Sept. 11 attacks and the Oklahoma bombing did not begin with planes or explosives, they began with words, ugly hateful words that demonized, dehumanized and debased Americans and everything we stand for, and those words became ugly, hateful deeds," Foxman said.

"We need every day to denounce the rabble rousers who traffic in fear and frustration. We need to cleanse our communities of prejudice. We need to speak up and speak out in protest when anyone is maligned or treated with contempt, no matter who the victim or the perpetrator. It isn't always easy. It takes courage to say no. But every time we laugh at an ethnic joke or racial slur or religious stereotype or let an expression of contempt pass in silence, we tacitly contribute to the atmosphere of prejudice, and it is only silence and indifference that enables the bully to bully, to hurt and maim and scar."

Foxman said the Jewish community's mantra of "Never again" is rooted in its mandate to never allow the horrors of the Holocaust to reoccur.

It's a universal message and mandate for all, he said.

"We believe in the power of words and the power of good people to stand up and to loudly say no. All of us in this room must bear witness and be faithful to the commandment which instructs us all to never again be silent whenever anyone is in fear or in danger, isolated or singled out because of the color of their skin, their ethnic origin, their religion, their sexual orientation or anything, that makes them different from the rest," he said.

"Do that. Stand up. Speak out, and you will be remembering those victims who perished because of hate. Do that and you will be doing 'tikkun olam,' — you will be helping to repair the world. Let it be so."

Related Photos
<strong>Actors portray people whose lives were lost or change forever during the Holocaust as part of the 2019 Yom HaShoah Holocaust Remembrance program on May 5 at Bishop McGuinness High School. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman]</strong>

Actors portray people whose lives were lost or change forever during the Holocaust as part of the 2019 Yom HaShoah Holocaust Remembrance program on May 5 at Bishop McGuinness High School. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman]

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-53effba2bb43de4d555b7732a9654ff4.jpg" alt="Photo - Actors portray people whose lives were lost or change forever during the Holocaust as part of the 2019 Yom HaShoah Holocaust Remembrance program on May 5 at Bishop McGuinness High School. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman] " title=" Actors portray people whose lives were lost or change forever during the Holocaust as part of the 2019 Yom HaShoah Holocaust Remembrance program on May 5 at Bishop McGuinness High School. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman] "><figcaption> Actors portray people whose lives were lost or change forever during the Holocaust as part of the 2019 Yom HaShoah Holocaust Remembrance program on May 5 at Bishop McGuinness High School. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-3c1bd4b4bcb383bd7f8c88c6cbe1e5f7.jpg" alt="Photo - People attend "Testimony of a Hidden Child," the 2019 Yom HaShoah Holocaust Remembrance program on May 5 at Bishop McGuinness High School. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman] " title=" People attend "Testimony of a Hidden Child," the 2019 Yom HaShoah Holocaust Remembrance program on May 5 at Bishop McGuinness High School. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman] "><figcaption> People attend "Testimony of a Hidden Child," the 2019 Yom HaShoah Holocaust Remembrance program on May 5 at Bishop McGuinness High School. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-912363f9578fbaec478aec765a3a0c97.jpg" alt="Photo - Actors portray people who went through the Holocaust at &quot;Testimony of a Child, the Holocaust Remembrance Day program at Bishop McGuinness High School auditorium, Sunday, May 5, 2019. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman]" title="Actors portray people who went through the Holocaust at &quot;Testimony of a Child, the Holocaust Remembrance Day program at Bishop McGuinness High School auditorium, Sunday, May 5, 2019. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman]"><figcaption>Actors portray people who went through the Holocaust at &quot;Testimony of a Child, the Holocaust Remembrance Day program at Bishop McGuinness High School auditorium, Sunday, May 5, 2019. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman]</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-ef00028c00aef9be67a558c2447cc2e0.jpg" alt="Photo - &quot;Testimony of a Child, the Holocaust Remembrance Day program at Bishop McGuinness High School auditorium, Sunday, May 5, 2019. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman]" title="&quot;Testimony of a Child, the Holocaust Remembrance Day program at Bishop McGuinness High School auditorium, Sunday, May 5, 2019. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman]"><figcaption>&quot;Testimony of a Child, the Holocaust Remembrance Day program at Bishop McGuinness High School auditorium, Sunday, May 5, 2019. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman]</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-1265a46c68ec71d27efff30437ab7b33.jpg" alt="Photo - The Bishop McGuinness Catholic High School Singers perform at &quot;Testimony of a Child, the Holocaust Remembrance Day program at Bishop McGuinness High School auditorium, Sunday, May 5, 2019. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman]" title="The Bishop McGuinness Catholic High School Singers perform at &quot;Testimony of a Child, the Holocaust Remembrance Day program at Bishop McGuinness High School auditorium, Sunday, May 5, 2019. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman]"><figcaption>The Bishop McGuinness Catholic High School Singers perform at &quot;Testimony of a Child, the Holocaust Remembrance Day program at Bishop McGuinness High School auditorium, Sunday, May 5, 2019. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman]</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-01cb3015c6c6fccfea497c1a325a79a3.jpg" alt="Photo - Abraham H. Foxman, National Director Emeritus of the Anti-Defamation League, embraces David Morton, Principal of Bishop McGuinness Catholic High School after his speech at &quot;Testimony of a Child, the Holocaust Remembrance Day program at Bishop McGuinness High School auditorium, Sunday, May 5, 2019. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman]" title="Abraham H. Foxman, National Director Emeritus of the Anti-Defamation League, embraces David Morton, Principal of Bishop McGuinness Catholic High School after his speech at &quot;Testimony of a Child, the Holocaust Remembrance Day program at Bishop McGuinness High School auditorium, Sunday, May 5, 2019. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman]"><figcaption>Abraham H. Foxman, National Director Emeritus of the Anti-Defamation League, embraces David Morton, Principal of Bishop McGuinness Catholic High School after his speech at &quot;Testimony of a Child, the Holocaust Remembrance Day program at Bishop McGuinness High School auditorium, Sunday, May 5, 2019. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman]</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-21dd64fd9d167680fed80ca992d13a6c.jpg" alt="Photo - &quot;Testimony of a Child, the Holocaust Remembrance Day program at Bishop McGuinness High School auditorium, Sunday, May 5, 2019. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman]" title="&quot;Testimony of a Child, the Holocaust Remembrance Day program at Bishop McGuinness High School auditorium, Sunday, May 5, 2019. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman]"><figcaption>&quot;Testimony of a Child, the Holocaust Remembrance Day program at Bishop McGuinness High School auditorium, Sunday, May 5, 2019. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman]</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-e969fa9d7a5e6fb291f29f535f5ac552.jpg" alt="Photo - Helga Page, who survived the Holocaust, poses with a group by the candles after the &quot;Testimony of a Child, the Holocaust Remembrance Day program at Bishop McGuinness High School auditorium, Sunday, May 5, 2019. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman]" title="Helga Page, who survived the Holocaust, poses with a group by the candles after the &quot;Testimony of a Child, the Holocaust Remembrance Day program at Bishop McGuinness High School auditorium, Sunday, May 5, 2019. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman]"><figcaption>Helga Page, who survived the Holocaust, poses with a group by the candles after the &quot;Testimony of a Child, the Holocaust Remembrance Day program at Bishop McGuinness High School auditorium, Sunday, May 5, 2019. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman]</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-69c97a7eeefcdde87293405dbb461698.jpg" alt="Photo - &quot;Testimony of a Child, the Holocaust Remembrance Day program at Bishop McGuinness High School auditorium, Sunday, May 5, 2019. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman]" title="&quot;Testimony of a Child, the Holocaust Remembrance Day program at Bishop McGuinness High School auditorium, Sunday, May 5, 2019. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman]"><figcaption>&quot;Testimony of a Child, the Holocaust Remembrance Day program at Bishop McGuinness High School auditorium, Sunday, May 5, 2019. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman]</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-e2ec908345ae594d060869e0740fd553.jpg" alt="Photo - Abraham H. Foxman, National Director Emeritus of the Anti-Defamation League, speaks at &quot;Testimony of a Child, the Holocaust Remembrance Day program at Bishop McGuinness High School auditorium, Sunday, May 5, 2019. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman]" title="Abraham H. Foxman, National Director Emeritus of the Anti-Defamation League, speaks at &quot;Testimony of a Child, the Holocaust Remembrance Day program at Bishop McGuinness High School auditorium, Sunday, May 5, 2019. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman]"><figcaption>Abraham H. Foxman, National Director Emeritus of the Anti-Defamation League, speaks at &quot;Testimony of a Child, the Holocaust Remembrance Day program at Bishop McGuinness High School auditorium, Sunday, May 5, 2019. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman]</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-bf52ce1e7d31032d9282de1421637a60.jpg" alt="Photo - Abraham H. Foxman, National Director Emeritus of the Anti-Defamation League, speaks at &quot;Testimony of a Child, the Holocaust Remembrance Day program at Bishop McGuinness High School auditorium, Sunday, May 5, 2019. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman]" title="Abraham H. Foxman, National Director Emeritus of the Anti-Defamation League, speaks at &quot;Testimony of a Child, the Holocaust Remembrance Day program at Bishop McGuinness High School auditorium, Sunday, May 5, 2019. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman]"><figcaption>Abraham H. Foxman, National Director Emeritus of the Anti-Defamation League, speaks at &quot;Testimony of a Child, the Holocaust Remembrance Day program at Bishop McGuinness High School auditorium, Sunday, May 5, 2019. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman]</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-51feb536f69b853b360e87968acdf526.jpg" alt="Photo - Abraham H. Foxman, National Director Emeritus of the Anti-Defamation League, lights candles after his speech at &quot;Testimony of a Child, the Holocaust Remembrance Day program at Bishop McGuinness High School auditorium, Sunday, May 5, 2019. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman]" title="Abraham H. Foxman, National Director Emeritus of the Anti-Defamation League, lights candles after his speech at &quot;Testimony of a Child, the Holocaust Remembrance Day program at Bishop McGuinness High School auditorium, Sunday, May 5, 2019. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman]"><figcaption>Abraham H. Foxman, National Director Emeritus of the Anti-Defamation League, lights candles after his speech at &quot;Testimony of a Child, the Holocaust Remembrance Day program at Bishop McGuinness High School auditorium, Sunday, May 5, 2019. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman]</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-9476401709e9559bd8340166a898db9c.jpg" alt="Photo - Dr. Mark Wolraich lights a candle in remembrance of a family member who survived the Holocaust at &quot;Testimony of a Child, the Holocaust Remembrance Day program at Bishop McGuinness High School auditorium, Sunday, May 5, 2019. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman]" title="Dr. Mark Wolraich lights a candle in remembrance of a family member who survived the Holocaust at &quot;Testimony of a Child, the Holocaust Remembrance Day program at Bishop McGuinness High School auditorium, Sunday, May 5, 2019. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman]"><figcaption>Dr. Mark Wolraich lights a candle in remembrance of a family member who survived the Holocaust at &quot;Testimony of a Child, the Holocaust Remembrance Day program at Bishop McGuinness High School auditorium, Sunday, May 5, 2019. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman]</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-3ab9550d8b58d2e7979396593865b916.jpg" alt="Photo - Dr. Mark Wolraich walks away after lighting a candle in remembrance of a family member who survived the Holocaust at &quot;Testimony of a Child, the Holocaust Remembrance Day program at Bishop McGuinness High School auditorium, Sunday, May 5, 2019. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman]" title="Dr. Mark Wolraich walks away after lighting a candle in remembrance of a family member who survived the Holocaust at &quot;Testimony of a Child, the Holocaust Remembrance Day program at Bishop McGuinness High School auditorium, Sunday, May 5, 2019. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman]"><figcaption>Dr. Mark Wolraich walks away after lighting a candle in remembrance of a family member who survived the Holocaust at &quot;Testimony of a Child, the Holocaust Remembrance Day program at Bishop McGuinness High School auditorium, Sunday, May 5, 2019. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman]</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-5457be20b781f6d7d18dc7a856efbcff.jpg" alt="Photo - Dr. Mark Wolraich takes a minute to reflect after lighting a candle in remembrance of a family member who survived the Holocaust at &quot;Testimony of a Child, the Holocaust Remembrance Day program at Bishop McGuinness High School auditorium, Sunday, May 5, 2019. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman]" title="Dr. Mark Wolraich takes a minute to reflect after lighting a candle in remembrance of a family member who survived the Holocaust at &quot;Testimony of a Child, the Holocaust Remembrance Day program at Bishop McGuinness High School auditorium, Sunday, May 5, 2019. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman]"><figcaption>Dr. Mark Wolraich takes a minute to reflect after lighting a candle in remembrance of a family member who survived the Holocaust at &quot;Testimony of a Child, the Holocaust Remembrance Day program at Bishop McGuinness High School auditorium, Sunday, May 5, 2019. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman]</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-16f19ab6d30e680057601ff47f45c190.jpg" alt="Photo - Mark Vegh lights a candle in remembrance of a family member who survived the Holocaust at &quot;Testimony of a Child, the Holocaust Remembrance Day program at Bishop McGuinness High School auditorium, Sunday, May 5, 2019. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman]" title="Mark Vegh lights a candle in remembrance of a family member who survived the Holocaust at &quot;Testimony of a Child, the Holocaust Remembrance Day program at Bishop McGuinness High School auditorium, Sunday, May 5, 2019. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman]"><figcaption>Mark Vegh lights a candle in remembrance of a family member who survived the Holocaust at &quot;Testimony of a Child, the Holocaust Remembrance Day program at Bishop McGuinness High School auditorium, Sunday, May 5, 2019. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman]</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-4d1f1eb8e81ee8cd6c0b432dcb8efb1d.jpg" alt="Photo - Mark Vegh takes a minute to reflect after lighting a candle in remembrance of a family member who survived the Holocaust at &quot;Testimony of a Child, the Holocaust Remembrance Day program at Bishop McGuinness High School auditorium, Sunday, May 5, 2019. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman]" title="Mark Vegh takes a minute to reflect after lighting a candle in remembrance of a family member who survived the Holocaust at &quot;Testimony of a Child, the Holocaust Remembrance Day program at Bishop McGuinness High School auditorium, Sunday, May 5, 2019. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman]"><figcaption>Mark Vegh takes a minute to reflect after lighting a candle in remembrance of a family member who survived the Holocaust at &quot;Testimony of a Child, the Holocaust Remembrance Day program at Bishop McGuinness High School auditorium, Sunday, May 5, 2019. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman]</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-fdc5218bef0c3de921e49c81252fffd9.jpg" alt="Photo - Helga Page, who survived the Holocaust, talks with friends after the &quot;Testimony of a Child, the Holocaust Remembrance Day program at Bishop McGuinness High School auditorium, Sunday, May 5, 2019. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman]" title="Helga Page, who survived the Holocaust, talks with friends after the &quot;Testimony of a Child, the Holocaust Remembrance Day program at Bishop McGuinness High School auditorium, Sunday, May 5, 2019. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman]"><figcaption>Helga Page, who survived the Holocaust, talks with friends after the &quot;Testimony of a Child, the Holocaust Remembrance Day program at Bishop McGuinness High School auditorium, Sunday, May 5, 2019. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman]</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-e53080f926b636fda7774bbcad737ff1.jpg" alt="Photo - &quot;Testimony of a Child, the Holocaust Remembrance Day program at Bishop McGuinness High School auditorium, Sunday, May 5, 2019. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman]" title="&quot;Testimony of a Child, the Holocaust Remembrance Day program at Bishop McGuinness High School auditorium, Sunday, May 5, 2019. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman]"><figcaption>&quot;Testimony of a Child, the Holocaust Remembrance Day program at Bishop McGuinness High School auditorium, Sunday, May 5, 2019. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman]</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-e10b66030cdfe5bef142dcc19b51c43f.jpg" alt="Photo - &quot;Testimony of a Child, the Holocaust Remembrance Day program at Bishop McGuinness High School auditorium, Sunday, May 5, 2019. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman]" title="&quot;Testimony of a Child, the Holocaust Remembrance Day program at Bishop McGuinness High School auditorium, Sunday, May 5, 2019. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman]"><figcaption>&quot;Testimony of a Child, the Holocaust Remembrance Day program at Bishop McGuinness High School auditorium, Sunday, May 5, 2019. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman]</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-2a3df294c77889bb8315c9404e3a50f9.jpg" alt="Photo - Abraham H. Foxman, national director emeritus of the Anti-Defamtion League, lights a candle during the 2019 Yom HaShoah Holocaust Remembrance program on May 5 at Bishop McGuinness High School. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman] " title=" Abraham H. Foxman, national director emeritus of the Anti-Defamtion League, lights a candle during the 2019 Yom HaShoah Holocaust Remembrance program on May 5 at Bishop McGuinness High School. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman] "><figcaption> Abraham H. Foxman, national director emeritus of the Anti-Defamtion League, lights a candle during the 2019 Yom HaShoah Holocaust Remembrance program on May 5 at Bishop McGuinness High School. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure>
Carla Hinton

Carla Hinton, an Oklahoma City native, joined The Oklahoman in 1986 as a National Society of Newspaper Editors minority intern. She began reporting full-time for The Oklahoman two years later and has served as a beat writer covering a wide... Read more ›

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