Holocaust service tells stories of resistance
The audience stands during a Holocaust Days of Remembrance commemoration event held April 18 at the Officer Training School. Attendees included, front row from left, Col. David Cohen, the Air University’s director of staff; Sandi Killough, spouse of 42nd Air Base Wing commander Col. Brian Killough; Col. Thomas Coglitore, OTS commander, Col. Susan Schlacter, 42nd Air Base Wing vice commander and Chief Master Sgt. Cornell Johnson, 42nd Medical Group superintendent. (Air Force photo by Melanie Rodgers Cox)
by Kelly Deichert
Air University Public Affairs
4/27/2012 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. -- The Holocaust Days of Remembrance commemoration event gave the Maxwell community an opportunity to remember those lost in the genocide and honor those who acted against injustice.
This year's theme "Choosing to Act: Stories of Rescue" resonated in the first-person narratives read April 18 at Officer Training School.
Karen Beck of the Muir S. Fairchild Research Information Center told the story of Corrie ten Boom, a member of the Dutch Resistance who hid Jews in her home during World War II. She and her sister, Betsie, were sent to Ravensbruck concentration camp, where Betsie died. Ten Boom survived and lived to be 91. She chronicled her story in the book "The Hiding Place."
"Before (ten Boom's sister, Betsie) died she told me, 'There is no pit so deep that God's love is not deeper still,'" Beck said, speaking as Corrie ten Boom.
After the Nazis arrested the ten Booms, the Dutch Resistance rescued Jews hidden in their house and kept them safe until the end of the war.
Dr. Robert Kane, director of history for the Air University, spoke about the members of the Danish Resistance, who helped evacuate Jews to Sweden in 1943.
When the resistance movement learned the Nazis planned to round up the Jews Oct. 1-2, 1943, Danes offered refuge to Jews.
"I heard of complete strangers on the streets of Copenhagen offering Jews they never met keys to their apartments," Kane said, speaking as a member of the resistance movement. "The medical staff at Copenhagen hospitals hid more than a thousand Jews."
The Germans found only 284 Jews, of whom 50 were killed in the camps. By Oct. 12, 1943, more than 7,300 were evacuated to Sweden. More than 95 percent of Danish Jews survived World War II.
Barry Spink from the Air Force Historical Research Agency spoke as Maj. Karl Plagge, a German officer who employed Lithuanian Jews to save them and their families from the concentration camps.
"I saw unbelievable things and could not support them," Spink said, speaking for Plegge.
In an attempt to save lives, Plagge hired Jews to repair and maintain army vehicles. He issued work permits to 500 men, labeling them as skilled regardless of their actual skill level. This permit protected each man, his wife and up to two children from being sent to concentration camps.
As the Russian army advanced, the Nazis sent Plagge's employees and their families to camps.
In the camps, men, women and children found places to hide, hoping to avoid execution. When Plagge learned the Nazis were planning to annihilate the camp, he notified the prisoners of the date. This allowed them to hide or escape.
Though about 900-1,000 of Plagge's employees and families were killed, 20-25 percent survived. The rate of survival for Lithuanian Jews was 3-5 percent.
The event also included Clare Weil's performance on the violin and a candle-lighting ceremony featuring Rabbi Elliot Stevens from Temple Beth Or and Rabbi Scott Kramer of the Agudath Israel Etz Ahayem Synagogue, both in Montgomery.
"Oh God, my God, I pray that these things never end, the sand and the sea, the rush of the waters, the crash of the heavens, the prayer of the heart," Stevens said, reading the prayer "Eli Eli" (My God, My God) by Hannah Senesh.
The audience watched a video from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, featuring historians' and survivors' stories. The video is available on the museum's website, www.ushmm.org.