Holocaust Remembrance Day: Indeed, We Remember Them

Edmund Burke is acknowledged for the famous saying “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” This week our John Carroll Senior Class of 2013 worked hard to make it known that good people can and do indeed make a positive difference in the world.
Our Holocaust Education program has flourished over the years with our English, Social Studies, and Religion teachers. The senior class trip to D.C. and our Holocaust Remembrance Day are held annually under the leadership of much-loved teacher and Senior Project mentor Louise Géczy.
After finishing an in-depth interdisciplinary study of the Shoah, the entire class embarked on their senior trip yesterday to the National Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC. The students visited the museum and saw the hundreds of displays and tributes after first participating in a wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery. Many of the seniors spoke of being overwhelmed by the inhumane acts of violence that were unleashed on the Jews and others n the concentration camps.
Today we held our annual Holocaust Remembrance Day back at school. As I started the school day with our opening prayer at 8 a.m., I shared with the students the words of the Holy Father four weeks ago on the occasion of International Remembrance Day, Jan. 28, 2013, when Pope Benedict called attention to this horrendous chapter in human history and prayed that the horrors of the Holocaust would never be repeated.
“The memory of this enormous tragedy that so severely struck mainly the Jewish people should represent for all a constant warning so that the horrors of the past are not repeated, so that every form of hatred and racism is overcome, and so that the respect and dignity of the human person is promoted.”
–Pope Benedict XVI
I prayed with the students, and later with our special guests, the prayer issued for the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the death of Anne Frank: 
God, you created us all in your own likeness.

We thank you for the wonderful diversity of races and cultures in your world.

Enrich our lives by ever-widening circles of fellow feeling and understanding;

show us your presence in those most different from us, so that in all our relationships,

both by what we have in common and by things in which we differ,

we may come to know you more fully in your creation;

for you are Father, Son and Holy Spirit forever.

Our special guests today were thirteen speakers and two directors from the Baltimore Jewish Council Speakers Bureau.
Included were Holocaust survivors, the psychiatrist-son of a concentration camp survivor who teaches a college course on Oral History of the Holocaust, a liberator of the camp at Buchenwald, and the program directors. Our students were able to hear two small-group talks, as well as the afternoon large-group presentation.

To view a slideshow, navigate the arrows below:
A highlight of the day was the afternoon talk by Sol Goldstein who was a captain in the U.S. Army during World War II. He landed in France on D-Day (June 6, 1944), and ten months later was one of the first liberators on hand in April of 1945 at the Buchenwald Concentration Camp, one of the largest established by the Nazis.
Mr. Goldstein spoke without notes for almost 40 minutes as he recalled being twenty years old and discovering the Buchenwald camp, and not knowing what it was or why it was there. He said they never heard of or knew anything about concentration camps. He and the seven soldiers in his command were confused by the overwhelming stench, what the place was used for, and by not understanding who the emaciated persons were who approached them for help, while crying and embracing them.
Many tears were shed today as Sol Goldstein recalled the first man who asked him in German if he and his seven subordinates were American soldiers. When Sol responded in Yiddish, “Yes, we are American soldiers and I am a Jew,” the man questioned, “What took you so long to get here?” Sol Goldstein recalled crying uncontrollably as he realized at that moment that if not for his own parents moving to the United States thirty years earlier he himself could be there as a prisoner too. We all cried with him.
Sol continued his account of this real-life tale of horror by recalling how he and the other seven soldiers could not believe what they were seeing. Offering water and their food rations to the prisoners resulted in some deaths due to the poor physical condition of the prisoners until the paramedics got there the next day to set up cots and to hand-feed gruel to those who could swallow. The impact that this experience had on Sol Goldstein was visibly overwhelming though he has told his first-person account hundreds of times over the years.
When he finally came home to the United States after serving in a transportation unit for an additional seven months, Sol had a very difficult time adjusting back to “normal.” He told of meeting his future wife at the Lyric Theatre in Baltimore and having “had the most wonderful life for sixty years” until she passed away in 2006. They had three sons, and now five grandchildren and ten great-grandchildren.
He told the seniors that he has never been back to Normandy in spite of making many trips to Europe over the years. His sons wanted to take him back for his 90th birthday next month, but he refused, and instead they took him earlier this month to New Orleans for the Super Bowl where he watched the Baltimore Ravens win the Lombardi trophy.
One of our seniors asked him why he won’t go back to Normandy and Sol shook his head and said, “I left too many friends there who didn’t come back. I can’t go back.”
One of the senior girls asked him about the segregation that existed in the United States when he got home. He immediately recalled the women of the Red Cross passing out cartons of milk and donuts to the soldiers coming down the gangplank in Hoboken. He said there were no black soldiers coming down that gangplank; they had one on the other end of the ship with no one from the Red Cross there to greet them. Then when he got to the Pennsylvania train station in Baltimore there were two different bathrooms marked Colored and White. Sol told the students that, seeing how people were treating persons of other races here in this nation, he made a promise to himself then and there that “if ever a Jew would be in trouble, I’d be there to help.” And Sol Goldstein has spent decades serving with the Jewish Council of Baltimore and other organizations to assist Jews in need in all areas of the world.
The concluding remarks of Sol Goldstein to our John Carroll seniors: “They said that (WWII) was the war to end all wars and that there would never be another Holocaust. But look at Cambodia, Yugoslavia, Africa…” He encouraged the seniors to: “Learn as much as you can. Make this a better country. Try to do the best you can. Watch what is going on around you. Be aware. To me, that’s life.”
Sol Goldstein has visited John Carroll for 35 years now, starting back in 1977 at the invitation of Russian teacher Ed Miller to address his Russian language and history students. Today Mr. Goldstein was presented with a special John Carroll diploma in honor of his many years of sharing his first-hand account of the horrors of the Holocaust with our students and for contributing to make this world a better place. 
Sol Goldstein with John Carroll Principal Madelyn Ball and President Richard O'Hara
Sol Goldstein with John Carroll Principal Madelyn Ball and President Richard O’Hara
The day concluded with the eight-minute video “Why We Remember the Holocaust:” Don’t miss its powerful message.
Our Day of Remembrance closed with the students praying for our special guests with the Jewish Prayer of Remembrance:
At the rising of the sun and at its going down,

We remember them.

At the blowing of the wind and in the chill of winter,

We remember them.

At the opening of the buds and in the rebirth of spring,

We remember them.

At the blueness of the skies and in the warmth of summer,

We remember them.

At the rustling of the leaves and in the beauty of autumn,

We remember them.

At the beginning of the year and when it ends,

We remember them.

As long as we live, they too will live; for they are now a part of us

as we remember them.

When we are weary and in need of strength,

We remember them.

When we are lost and sick at heart,

We remember them.

When we have joy we crave to share,

We remember them.

When we have decisions that are difficult to make,

We remember them.

When we have achievements that are based on theirs,

We remember them.

As long as we live, they too will live;

for they are now a part of us, as we remember them.

— Sylvan Kamens & Rabbi Jack Riemer

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.