Some 75 community members — including Holocaust survivors, their children, and grandchildren — paid homage to those murdered by the Nazis and their allies at an observance of Yom Hashoa, May 5 on the Aidekman campus in Whippany.
After assembling in the Harry Wilf Holocaust Memorial, they lit memorial candles and sang Yiddish and English versions of the “Hymn of the Partisans” led by survivor Ann Monka of Montville and Cantor Anna Berman of Temple Har Shalom in Warren, who also chanted “El Maleh Rahamim.” All the attendees together recited Kaddish for the Six Million.
Also taking part were Rabbi Ron Kaplan and Barbara Wind, executive director of the Holocaust Council of Greater MetroWest, organizer of the program.
Following the memorial service, many of those in attendance gathered for a “lunch and learn” forum on “Women of the Shoa” sponsored by the council in conjunction with the same-named section of its annual exhibit, “From Memory to History,” which was on display on the Aidekman campus.
Three female survivors were asked to reflect on the influence of their mothers, who, they said, had made it possible for their daughters to stay alive during the Shoa.
Gina Lanceter of Montclair, a native of Poland whose parents forced her to leap from the window of a railroad boxcar en route to the extermination camp at Majdanek, said she has always wished she had known how her parents felt in the moments after she escaped the train that carried them to their deaths.
“They were devastated but they insisted I do it,” she said. “I wish I was back on that train just for a few seconds, just to know how my mother felt after I was gone. My mother had a slight heart problem and she said when we were on the train, ‘I wish I would get a heart attack now,’ because she knew where we were going,” Lanceter said.
Paris-born Erika Sauerhoff, a resident of Hillside, was separated from her mother during World War II and hidden in a small French village. “My mother was very gutsy, and I wish I was as gutsy as she was. I’m not,” she said. “She was very imaginative. We were starving, and we were on a list of no food deliveries because we lived in a center of resistance to the Nazis. But she had noted that somehow pregnant women could get on a line to get food allocations. So she stuffed her dress with pillows, she went on the line, and she came home with food.”
“I think my survival had a lot to do with my mother,” said Gerda Bikales of Livingston.
Born in Breslau, Germany, Bikales fled with her mother to Belgium, France, and Switzerland. “My mother always told me to be independent. As much as she loved me, she wanted me to be independent, and that helped me a lot. She taught me to be resourceful and to survive.”
“In my opinion, Hitler did not win completely,” said Lanceter.