How often do memories of life during the Holocaust seep into Frank Grunwald’s mind?
Every day—maybe 15 times or maybe 30—says this year’s guest speaker for the Holocaust Commission of the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater’s commemoration of Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day.
“Every third or fourth situation triggers a memory that goes back 65 years,” says Grunwald. “Everything triggers it. Eating a piece of dark bread triggers it. Putting on a pair of shoes in the winter triggers it. Picking up my grandchild triggers it— knowing that so many kids, beautiful kids, were killed.”
The memories haven’t stopped Grunwald from speaking about his childhood to others, however. He’ll share the lessons he learned from his experiences and the importance of remembering with the community at the Holocaust Commission’s annual Yom Hashoah event held this year at Temple Israel, 7255 Granby St. in Norfolk.
In addition to speaking to communities such as Tidewater, Grunwald’s story is showcased in the feature-length 2012 documentary Misa’s Fugue. The acclaimed film follows Grunwald’s life from his 1932 birth in Czechoslovakia to his journey through Prague, Terezin, Auschwitz, Mauthausen, Melk, and Gunskirchen, and his encounters with the notorious Dr. Josef Mengele and legendary artist Dina Babbit along the way.
“It is imperative that we continue to hear these stories, in person, as much as we possibly can, to remember, to share with others, and to reinforce the importance of honoring our survivors and liberators, and to affirm our commitment to Holocaust education,” says Holocaust Commission director Elena Barr Baum.
The observance of Yom Hashoah begins on April 7 at 10 am at Congregation Beth El, 422 Shirley Ave. in Norfolk. The Beth El Men’s Club will sponsor the Reading of the Names, as the names of some of the six million who perished during the Holocaust are read aloud until 4 pm. The community is invited to listen and to participate.
The evening program celebrates the power of the human spirit and the enduring faith of those who witnessed and survived the Holocaust. In a somber tribute, survivors, liberators, and righteous gentiles who reside in Hampton Roads, and their families, are invited to participate in a candle lighting ceremony. Songs and prayers are also a part of the program.
Additionally that evening, the Holocaust Commission will recognize area student and teacher achievements in Holocaust education. The winners of the Holocaust Commission’s 16th Annual Elie Wiesel Writing Competition and the 11th Annual Elie Wiesel Visual Arts competitions will be announced, and some of the winning entries will be showcased at Temple Israel that evening. Awards for outstanding teachers will also be announced.
Yom Hashoah is free and open to the public.
For more information about the Yom Hashoah evening of remembrance, prayer and celebration, or Holocaust Commission programs and events, visit www.jewishva.org/holocaust-commission, or call 757-965‑2323.
by Laine M. Rutherford