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National Days of Remembrance 2016 for Victims of the Holocaust

Mayor Diaz issues a proclamation to Dr. Katz

Mayor Diaz issues a proclamation to Dr. Katz

By: Carolyn Maxwell

PERTH AMBOY – The National Day of Remembrance was held on Wednesday, May 18, 2016. It started with a brief ceremony at 6 p.m. at City Hall Circle culminating in the raising of the Israeli flag. Rabbi Ari Saks of Beth Mordecai Synagogue, 226 High Street spoke of the love of Israel and the United States and the special bond between the two countries. He looked lovingly at his son whom he held in his arms when speaking. He knows that his son represents the future of those who will carry on the traditions of what Israel represents as a peace loving nation.

Students listened to the speech by Dr. Katz.

Students listened to the speech by Dr. Katz.

Prior to the Flag Raising, remarks were made by the Mayor and Hershel Chomsky. Chaim Meir Erps sang a traditional Israeli song.  Raising the flag with Rabbi Saks were Mayor Wilda Diaz, Hershel Chomsky.

Just as the flag raising was concluded, special guest speaker Dr. Mosche (Maurice) Katz along with his family appeared and was warmly greeted by the Mayor, Chomsky, Rabbi Saks and others in attendance.

Elizebeth Farkas (L) daughter of Holocaust Survivor Alan Farkas poses with Frieda Mehrel (R) whose grandfather was in the same Concentration Camp (Bergen-Belsen) with Anne Frank. Anne Frank died there in Feb. 1945, at the age of 15.

Elizebeth Farkas (L) daughter of Holocaust Survivor Alan Farkas poses with Frieda Mehrel (R) whose grandfather was in the same Concentration Camp (Bergen-Belsen) as Anne Frank. Anne Frank died there in Feb. 1945, at the age of 15.

The ceremony continued in the City Council Chambers. Chomsky welcomed all who attended and led the Pledge of Allegiance. Msgr. John Gordon read the invocation followed by the Mayor’s opening remarks and a presentation of a proclamation to Dr. Katz.

Candles that were on the bannister were lit by Dr. Katz, Mayor Diaz, Msgr. Gordon, Councilman Bill Petrick and Fernando Irizarry. Students, friends and relatives of Dr. Katz.

Mayor Diaz asked for a moment of silence in memory of those who perished in the Holocaust. A prayer for the victims of the Holocaust and Israel’s national anthem was sung.

Dr. Katz presented signed copies of his book, “9 out of 10” to Mayor Diaz and Hershel Chomsky.

Before Dr. Katz came up to speak, Chomsky made a couple of comments: “We need to remember every day.” He mentioned the 200 + missing girls in Nigeria. “They were missing 2 years ago today and then it was forgotten. One of the girls was found today. Hatred is still happening today.”

With that Chomsky related something that happened to him a couple of months ago. Chomsky who works in the Perth Amboy Public Library said he approached some people who were eating in the library and told them there was no eating allowed. “As I turned my back to leave, I heard one of them say, “Is it because the food is not Kosher?” “Yes, I was hurt, but I’m glad that we live in this country.

Chomsky also explained the significance of the 12 candles that will be lit. “6 of the candles signifies the 6 million Jews that were killed and the other 6 candles represent an additional Non-Jewish People who also were believed to have been killed in the Holocaust.”

Mayor Diaz made comments after Chomsky. She welcomed all to Perth Amboy’s Historic City Hall, “The United States Congress designated a National Day of Remembrance. It’s important to listen to the words of Holocaust survivors. We can’t sit back and see any person persecuted. We can’t tolerate this. We need to be a voice.” Addressing the students in attendance, Diaz said, “You can take this back to your student body and share what you heard today to them.” She thanked Herschel for putting this program together and said, “It’s a true honor to have Dr. Katz here with his beautiful wife.”

When Dr. Katz came up to speak, he was overwhelmed and grateful that he was able to speak to such a warm and receptive audience.

Rabbi Ari Saks of Congregation Beth Mordecai with his son

Rabbi Ari Saks of Congregation Beth Mordecai with his son

Dr. Katz stated, “I’ve been doing this (telling his personal story) for over 30 years. I have never had a reception like this. It’ over 70 years that this tragedy happened. I may not remember everything that happened, but most of the things I tell you are 100% true. There were 10 of us children, but 9 of us survived.” (One of the books authored by Dr. Katz is titled Nine out of Ten which told the story of how nine out of ten of his brothers and sisters including himself survived the Holocaust.

He was grateful that many Jewish people were helped by several Gentile families out of the goodness of their hearts.

“No money was ever exchanged. One of these families was a Mrs. Margaret Poli and her husband who risked their lives to save my brother and I. They had love and kindness in their hearts to save others. Around 1942/43 the Jews lost their rights. Those who came to Perth Amboy were helped by Dr. Toth who defended the Jewish people. In March 1944, the German Army marched into our town and imposed a curfew on the Jews. We were not allowed on the streets from 9 p.m. to 9 a.m. Then that was changed to 7 p.m. to 7 a.m., but we never gave up hope. Toth smuggled over some of my brothers and sisters. Before coming to the United States, the Gentile people that I lived with had rented one of their rooms to a Nazi nurse. In April 1944, they had to hide me in the attic where there was little comfort. The nurse who was renting out the room was told not to come back. She was OK with that because she owed one month of back rent. Thanks to them and 5 other families and the help of God, we were able to survive. My sisters wore crosses. The German Soldiers had the men pull down their pants to see if they were circumcised. If they were, they would be targeted to be killed. One of Hitler’s Generals defied him because he didn’t want to kill any civilians. Hitler had that General demoted and then jailed.”

[Click on following group of pictures to enlarge]:

Katz proudly stated he was an honor student in geography. “I gave my teacher a compliment and she really appreciated it,” he said. “Today, the children tell their parents what to do.”

He related that a child will tell a parent I want to do this or go here because that’s where my friends are going. Katz emphatically stated, “The worst thing in America is better than the best thing there is in Russia. In Russia, they will not give you your birth certificate if you needed it to go to America. This Country (USA) is the best in the world, and I owe everything to it. Don’t underestimate the kindness of Gentiles. Some people were offered 5 lbs. of sugar (which was in high demand) to turn over Jews. In Budapest, Hungary I saw them shoot and tie up children and then throw them in the water. I would take in another person and risk my life to save them. Everyone is God’s children.”

 Israeli Flag

Israeli Flag

One of the questions asked of Dr. Katz was, “How did you meet your beautiful wife?”

“My first wife died 20 years ago but I was introduced to my current wife by a mutual friend. Before I married her, it had to be with my children’s approval. I came to America because that’s where my older brother decided to go. When my brother found work in this country, my brother had 20 Germans who worked under him and he was never mistreated by them. Anyone who worked in the supermarket was exempt from the army. Growing up in a Christian home, I had to pretend to be a Christian. During that time, we had no idea of the harsh treatment that others were receiving. 5 of my relatives ended up in Auschwitz but survived. 6 of 7 family members were burned there.”

At one point when he was talking, someone in the audience offered a chair to sit in, but Dr. Katz refused saying, “When I talk to ladies and gentlemen, I stand because it shows respect.”

Someone asked a question as to how he held onto his faith during those difficult years. Katz related what transpired when he said goodbye to his mother and father. His mother told him, “Remember there is God, and I will also pray for you. When I was younger, I always saw my mom work hard every day. We had an icebox but some food would spoil. My Mother was overworked. I made a deal with God: if I survived I will make a school for both girls and boys and I’ve done so in America. There are many people who didn’t believe that the Holocaust happened. It was only after 1962 that people started to believe that the Holocaust existed. I never knew during the time of the Holocaust where my other brothers and sisters were placed. The Gentile families who helped my brothers and sisters knew each other. This is how we were able to reunite after the liberation of the camps.”

“One of my brothers was so emaciated that I did not recognize him. I had been feeding someone and it turned out to be him. If it was not brought to my attention to someone who was withe me, I would not have guessed it was him.”

Lighting the candles

Lighting the candles

Dr. Robert Lichtenstein who is a nephew of Dr. Katz was very grateful that his Uncle wrote this book to tell how others helped his Uncle and others survive this terrible tragedy.

There was also a special appearance and a musical interlude performed by Chaim Meir Erps who is the grandchild of a Holocaust Survivor.

The Benediction was given by Shabsi Ganzweig from the Perth Amboy Chaplain Corps.

Chaim Meir Erps led the singing of God Bless America.

Standing behind Dr. Katz (seated) (L to R) his nephew, Robert Lichtenstein, Herschel Chomsky and Dr. Katz’ wife, Hindy.

Standing behind Dr. Katz (seated) (L to R) his nephew, Robert Lichtenstein, Herschel Chomsky and Dr. Katz’ wife, Hindy.

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