Nearly 200 people gathered at the Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center Sunday, including Holocaust survivors and their families, to commemorate the 71st anniversary of Kristallnacht and pay special tribute to the courageous acts of Holocaust rescuers in an “Appreciation of the Righteous” ceremony, during which the Museum unveiled four new additions to those honored on its Fountain of the Righteous.
Holocaust survivors Aaron Elster, Allen Kupfer and Lillian Zoloto looked on during the Museum’s “Appreciation of the Righteous” ceremony as the names of their rescuers, Hipolit and Franciszka Gorski (Poland), Jozef and Stefania Macugowski (Poland), and Jean and Josine Opdebeeck (Belgium), respectively, as well as that of Ho Feng Shan (China) were unveiled.
The names join those of 54 rescuers already commemorated on the fountain so that their courageous actions may forever be remembered.
Other rescuers inscribed on the Museum’s Fountain of the Righteous include, Oskar Schindler (Germany), Irena Sendler (Poland), Raoul Wallenberg (Sweden), and Chiune‐Sempo Sugihara (Japan).
“I am here and my family is here because the Gorskis took a chance and agreed to hide me in their attic,” said Aaron Elster, Museum board vice‐president and Holocaust survivor. “So many of us survived because someone made a difficult choice, stood up, risked their life, and did the right thing.
It is important that we remember their actions, not just as a way to pay tribute and say thank you, but also as a reminder to us all that everyone has a part to play in combating hate and intolerance. Just one person can make a difference.”
After the recognition ceremony, guests gathered in the Museum’s Goodman Auditorium for a special Kristallnacht commemoration that included remarks by Rabbi Herman Schaalman, Rabbi Emeritus of Emanuel Congregation; Avenue of the Righteous President Chuck Meyers; and Richard S. Hirschhaut, executive director, Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center.
On the evening of Nov. 9, 1938, which has come to be known as Kristallnacht – the Night of Broken Glass – the Nazis’ staged vicious state‐sanctioned, anti‐Semitic riots against the Jewish community in Germany. Jewish cemeteries, hospitals, schools and homes were ransacked and destroyed.
Some 1,400 synagogues were attacked and burned, 30,000 Jewish men were arrested and sent to concentration camps and more than 100 Jews were killed.
“Kristallnacht was a critical moment in the history of the Holocaust, where violence was met with indifference by countless bystanders and, as a result, the situation for Jews and others in Europe rapidly deteriorated,” said Hirschhaut.
“It is therefore fitting that on this day we also honor the “righteous”—those who had the courage to care and take action when so many others did not. They provide a constant reminder that it is our responsibility to stand up for others in the face of tyranny. ”
Likely the last international institution of its kind built with the active participation of Holocaust survivors, the Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center is the largest facility in the Midwest dedicated to preserving the memories of those lost in the Holocaust and to teaching current generations to fight hatred, indifference and genocide in today’s world.
To learn more, visit ilholocaustmuseum.org.