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National Day of Remembrance Holocaust Commemoration Ceremony 5/1/17 Perth Amboy City Hall Circle & Council Chambers

*Photos by Paul W. Wang

By: Carolyn Maxwell

PERTH AMBOY – The Holocaust Day of Remembrance started out with a traditional Flag Raising of the Israeli Flag. Rabbi Saks held onto his young son as he offered prayers and remarks. Rabbi Saks was also moved by how much he was embraced by the City of Perth Amboy and spoke of his love for the City that he will be leaving in a few short weeks.

After the raising of the flag, ceremonies were held inside the City Hall Chambers.

Herschel Chomsky led those present in the Pledge of Allegiance. Rev. Gregory Pabon of the Perth Amboy Police and Fire Chaplain Corps led the Invocation. He asked,”Open our hearts and minds so the memories of what happened never die.” He asked the Lord, “Strengthen our will and we say that genocide will never again be repeated. I pray that calls of evil fall on deaf ears. We are .made in your image. Remember the souls of those millions that died and we say,”Shalom.” Fill this day with peace.”

Herschel Chomsky came back up to the podium to offer remarks. He first asked for a moment of silence for Allan Farkas (A Holocaust Survivor who spoke at the Remembrance Ceremony a few years ago and also for Elie Wiesel, well-known Author, Professor, Activist, Nobel Prize Winner and Holocaust Survivor and Multiple Award Winner and one of the founders of U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington D.C.). Farkas and Wiesel both passed away in 2016.

Chomsky continued, “We have a Holocaust display at the library.” He also remembered the Nigerian girls who were kidnapped in April 2014. “It was in the media for a short period of time, but no one is talking about them now. There  have been no updates. It’s a disgrace. Frankly, no one cares. The history of the Holocaust needs to be told and maybe one day those Nigerian girls will be found. I pray one day that programs like this will not be needed. This is a very important day. I want to thank the Honorable Mayor Wilda Diaz who started this Remembrance Day (in the City). We’ve also have Chanukah Celebrations held at City Hall.”

He then introduced Mayor Diaz. Diaz remarked, “We have to speak up for those who can’t speak for themselves. I feel that I’ve been adopted by the Jewish Community. I want to acknowledge the kids that are here so they can pass on what they learn here tonight to others. Our Jewish Community includes doctors, lawyers, eductors and business owners.”

She then wished the guest speaker, Holocaust Survivor Shmuel David Pilicer “Many blessings and a long life to continue telling your story.”

Before Pilicer spoke, it was acknowledged that he just became a great-grandfather (again) and one of his great-grandchildren just got engaged. And also 69 years ago, if he was told that he would be a free man to speak about his experience, he would have told you that you were crazy. He suffered for 6 years (hunger, torture, slave labor and losing family members).

Shmuel began to speak, remembering when it all started (September 1, 1939).  “Then on September 4, 1939 – which was a Friday, they extinguished the candlelights in the middle of the Shabbot Meal and they took my Father. They tried to get him to smoke while cleaning the streets. In 1942, they took every man and woman and put them into two groups. Group A would be the healthy people and Group B would be the old people and children. They told my Mother – give up the kids and you can go home. She didn’t want to do it. One woman gave up her baby and her baby was shot. On one occasion, a pregnant Jewish woman when she gave birth  – what they did to the baby was indescribable. There were about 300,000 Jews and they gave us almost nothing to eat. My Dad got weaker and weaker. We worked one of two shifts. The army tanks couldn’t go on the ice, so they tried to put them on sleds. I tried to pick up two kilos of coal and I tried to save my Mother, but the Doctor said it was too late. I worked all night working on the sleds. On night, I was told to take a rest. I had an older sister and a younger sister and a younger brother who was in a different camp. We were given soup and toast to eat. This went on for about a year. My sisters went to work. Once in the morning I was told to go to sleep. I was told that my Dad said he had a dream that I would survive and that I should be a good Jew. The number and the date of my Father’s death was in the month of Thomas. In the last few years, it’s been difficult for me to travel (to visit my Father’s grave site). But my Granddaughter takes the trip and shows me the pictures. Over 20 years my total weight at the time never went over 82 lbs. The Americans couldn’t understand what was going on. There was one woman who started us on a diet to bring us back to health. I just have to repeat that what they did to newborn babies is impossible to describe. One of the survivors was shot by a German the day of the liberation. They hung 10 people and one person screamed very loudly. Everybody was praying, but we are not allowed to commit suicide. One time I fainted and was put in the corner of a room where it was cooler. They did a count and realized they were missing one person. I stayed quiet. A Russian Soldier gave me a machine gun to kill people. I didn’t want to do it, and besides I had no strength. At the first camp, we said prayers and exchanged bread an matzos. We made something that resembled bread. After the war and when it broke out again I was in Rome. There are people who are trying to deny the Holocaust which motivates me to tell my story.”

There was a question and answer period and when it was asked of Shmuel David Pilicer if he were able to forgive those (such as Hitler) who did these terrible things, he emphatically answered, “No! I never forgive those who did this! I’m the only one of 6 children who survived.”

One of the people who came up to speak was Geri Barcheski, “I thank you for coming here tonight to share your story and let our children know of your suffering so people never forget.”

Another person asked, “How  long have you been in the United States?”

He answered,”69 years ago my Father’s Cousin was living here. The world is not quiet and I see what’s going on in France and the United States.”

Just before the 12 candles were to be lit in remembrance of the 6 million Jews killed in the Holocaust and the other 6 million killed besides that, Pilicer remembered he had an encounter with Dr. Mengele at Auschwitz. “I shook hands with my two sisters and never saw them again. I saw my brother sent to the gas chambers. This happened before my own eyes.”

During the ceremony of lighting the 12 candles, the first candle was brought over to Pilicer who was seated. Others who lit the Memorial Candles which were held one by one by Chomsky included: Mayor Diaz, Councilman Irizarry, Administrators, Clergy and Students who were in attendance.

During the evening, music and songs were provided by Moti (Marc) Lieberman. Benediction was given by Rabbi Shabsi Ganzweig.

Herschel Chomsky parting remarks were: “Every person in this room learned something.

Rabbi Ganzweig said,”Pray for true peace to reign in the world.”

Shmuel David Pilicer is a published author of the book: “You Will Outlive Them,” which tells of his experience living through the Holocaust.

*Many of the Nigerian girls that Herschel Chomsky mentioned early in the evening were found and reunited with their families a few days after the 5/1/17 Day of Remembrance Ceremony.

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