Participants weep as they read names of people who died at Nazis’ hands
Mark Stein’s voice choked and tears welled in his eyes Monday as he read the age of a young Holocaust victim.
“I get really upset when I realize I’m reading family names: the grandfather, grandmother, the father, the mother and then children,” said Stein, a member of Halifax’s Jewish community who has taken part in Yom HaShoah services to commemorate Holocaust victims for many years.
“If we don’t remember these people, who will?”
Jewish communities around the world gather in public spaces each year for Yom HaShoah, reading the names of Holocaust victims in order to give them recognition and respect.
Frederic Kratt, a young German from Ludenscheid, was walking down Spring Garden Road in the rain when he heard references to “Warsaw, Treblinka and Auschwitz” over a public-address system and heard the roll call of victims.
Andrew Nichols, whose grandfather served in the Royal Canadian Air Force during the Second World War, was driving past in his car when he saw the ceremony underway.
Both men, in their early 30s, stopped along the periphery of Victoria Park as the memorial service continued.
Kratt was just passing by but decided to stay and listen.
“I think I have to because, you know, because it was so bad, everything that happened.”
Kratt said his grandfather served as a German soldier during the war, but he didn’t find out until sometime after his grandfather’s death because it was never mentioned in the family.
Nichols also took a moment to pay his respects and hear the names of those who were lost.
“I have a family connection, I guess, not as much as some people who lost their lives or their family members there, but the story reminds me of him and the sacrifice that he made,” said Nichols, referring to his own grandfather and the stories he shared about his war experiences.
The recital of names publicly acknowledges those victims who were nameless at the time, Stein explained.
One of the names was that of Linda Jonas Schroeder’s grandfather, Alfred Jonas, who died in Treblinka in 1942. She didn’t sign up this year to read names after finding it too difficult in the past, but then did so anyway, adding his name to her list.
Michael Argand, the president of the Atlantic Jewish Council, also read, paying homage to families he never met. His parents, from Poland, survived the Holocaust, but most of their families did not.
“You want to remember their names. If you say six million people a million times, what does that mean?” Argand said.
“If you start reading names of people and start looking at their ages, that’s what makes the difference, that’s what makes it important.”