Holocaust survivors and relatives of those who died by the hands of Adolf Hitler called on local citizens to quit the recent trend of cyber-bullying – as they said bullying of Jews in Germany and Poland was a precursor to the genocide of approximately six million European Jews during World War II.
The survivors and the families met at the Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center Nassau County in Glen Cove this morning to commemorate the upcoming Yom HaShoah or Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Highlighting their own stories of survival in death camps and ghettos, two Nassau County residents told of how they slept in pig sties, jumped off trains and came within "inches and minutes of death," as Annie Bleiberg put it.
"I was lucky. I survived Auschwitz," Bleiberg said. "I do have a [numbered] tattoo."
Another survivor, Eddie Weinstein, penned a memoir about the 17 days he spent in Treblinka, a German concentration camp. Weinstein said he escaped from Treblinka – one of six times he evaded the Nazis.
"As soon as I was taken away, I always managed to escape. I was incarcerated only 44 days during five years," he said.
As he joins fellow Jews around the world on Sunday, the official day for Yom HaShoah, in remembrance, he said he his brother, at age 16, and a close friend, were killed during Hitler's reign.
"I have seven grandchildren, and they are, my grandchildren, my answer to Hitler's Final Solution," he said.
But the discussion didn't completely revolve around the atrocities of the 1940s.
"While we look to the past, we must continue to make our message part of the future," said Boris Chartan, founder of the museum on Crescent Beach Road.
Chartan, a Holocaust survivor, tied what he called the beginnings of the anti-Jewish movement in Western Europe in the 1930s to what is happening in schools across America today. He said he distinctly remembers Polish boys his age teasing him because of his religion.
"When we complained to our teachers, nothing was done," he said. "I have never forgotten what I felt like to be picked and abused, by no fault of my own, but because I was Jewish."
"We're here today to honor the millions of people who died cruel and unimaginable deaths. Millions of others stood by and did nothing. It continues today," Chartan said.
This, Chartan said, is similar to what happened to Phoebe Prince, a 15-year-old Massachusetts girl who committed suicide in January after well-documented, but uncontrolled, cyber-bullying by her peers.
"The message today to be learned from the Holocaust and from 15-year-old Phoebe Prince is clear," Chartan said. "We can no longer to afford to standby and do nothing. It is a time for change."
Carly Haft, a 14-year-old freshman at Roslyn North High School, urged her peers to practice tolerance – even on social media Web sites like Facebook.
"Let us not only remember the atrocities, but the lessons they were meant to teach us," Haft said.