Michael Weiss, the Holocaust Memorial Center’s survivor speaker, shared stories and recounted the painful memories from his life during the Holocuast at this year’s Yom Hashoah service at the Holocaust Memorial Center May 5.

Michael Weiss, the Holocaust Memorial Center’s survivor speaker, shared stories and recounted the painful memories from his life during the Holocuast at this year’s Yom Hashoah service at the Holocaust Memorial Center May 5.

Photo by Jonathan Shead


Holocaust Memorial Center recognizes Yom Hashoah

By: Jonathan Shead | Farmington Press | Published May 15, 2019

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FARMINGTON HILLS — It was a day of somber remembrance and reflection for those who attended Yom Hashoah, Holocaust and Heroism Remembrance Day at the Holocaust Memorial Center May 5.

Celebrated as an international holiday within the Jewish faith, members of communities around the world gather each year to remember the 6 million Jews who lost their lives to Nazi persecution, as well as to recognize the people and acts of heroism that endeavored to save Jewish lives. The first official Yom Hashoah was observed in Israel in 1951.

“It’s a very meaningful time for families to commemorate their loved ones, and it’s an opportunity for the community to remember people who have no one to remember them,” said Ruth Bergman, the director of education for the Holocaust Memorial Center.

As the ceremony opened with a packed house singing “The Star-Spangled Banner,” a sense of community filled the room. While hearts may have been heavy, people sang with pride, a true testament to the ways in which everyone in the room hoped to remember the victims of the Holocaust — not just as a list of names and numbers, but as individuals devoted to their family, faith and humankind.

“We honor our survivors because they retained their humanity in the face of dehumanization and they built meaningful lives, even after all the horrors they’ve endured,” Bergman said. “They are truly heroic in our eyes. They’re role models for us, and that’s part of the message of Yom Hashoah.”

Holocaust Memorial Center CEO Rabbi Eli Mayerfeld invited a handful of esteemed guests, some direct survivors of the Holocaust and others family members, to the stage to light 12 commemorative candles, a symbol used in Judaism during the mourning of someone’s death.

“Traditionally in Judaism, on the anniversary of a death, we light a memorial candle and we say a prayer called the kaddish to remember them,” said Bergman. To pay respect to the 6 million lives lost to the Holocaust, many of whom don’t have a specific date of passing, Yom Hashoah has become the day to remember them.

Michael Weiss, a survivor of the Holocaust who came to America in 1947, can still remember those who lost their lives and the experiences they all faced during that time. He recounted the painful memories that still live with him today.

“Seventy years later, after the liberation, the experience from the Holocaust still hurts. It’s like a cancer. It never dies,” Weiss said during his speech. “We can hear their cries and feel their pain as long as there is one of us survivors alive.”

Weiss shared stories, including memories of the day he was taken to his first ghetto, and the day he and others were saved by the Allied forces in 1945. As he shared, he kept circling back to the fact that Jews have always faced tragedies — dating back to the story of Moses in Egypt — but he believes the Holocaust “has no equal,” and that is why we must continue to remember.

Remembrance is what Bergman and the Holocaust Memorial Center hope attendees left with as the ceremony came to a close — remembrance not only for the victims of the Holocaust, but an awareness of how to act today to prevent hate crimes such as the Holocaust from happening.

“We want people to leave with the message that when we see problems in the world and we see acts of hate, acts of discrimination, acts of prejudice, that we can stand up and do something,” Bergman said. “We want people to understand they have the power and the responsibility to act and to not be bystanders.”

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