- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 2, 2003

In cloud-white tents across 15th Street from the Holocaust Memorial Museum, thousands of Holocaust survivors met this weekend at tables marked with names of towns and concentration camps.

At the “Kovno, Vilno, Shavel” table sat Sofia Burstein. The Highland Park, Ill., resident is one of the few survivors of the World War II Jewish ghetto of Kovno, Lithuania.

Masha Baras, tall and confident in a brown suit marched up and asked, “Are you from Kovno? I’m from Kovno.”

Mrs. Burstein sat up a little straighter and asked: “Maybe you know my cousin, Vera?”

“I know her,” Mrs. Baras said. She also spent the war in the Kovno ghetto. She now lives in Southfield, Mich.

The moment hung suspended in the air, one name instantly connecting two strangers.

Mrs. Burstein said quietly, “Oh my God, I have tears in my eyes.”

More than 7,000 people — survivors, families, rescuers and liberators — attended the 10th anniversary of the Holocaust Museum yesterday. About one-third of those were Holocaust survivors.

Nobel laureate and museum founding Chairman Elie Wiesel delivered the keynote address in the museum’s Eisenhower Plaza. Mr. Wiesel spoke of the importance of remembering.

“Our presence here today is our answer to their silent question: We have not forgotten you,” he said.

Solomon Salat, 75, of Elizabeth, N.J., survived seven concentration and death camps after being torn from his home near Krakow, Poland. More than 1,500 bodies lay in piles when the Americans broke down the walls of his last camp, Ebensee in Austria. Some of them were still alive, Mr. Salat said. “I met one man years later in Italy who had been in that pile of dead bodies.”

Mr. Salat is writing a book for his children and grandchildren. Once all the table placards with the names of towns were put up, he hoped to find people who came from his village.

For others, the visit to the museum was a first. Nadine Lieberman of San Francisco had never visited the Holocaust museum. The black-haired woman with distant gray-green eyes came to see a picture of herself that her son and grandchildren had seen.

A search through the exhibit did not find the picture, but a museum volunteer found pictures of her in the computer database. The artist and author of “Self Portrait: An Artist’s Memories” (written under the name of Nadine Alexandre) told about her hiding all over Paris during the war.

Holding her thumb and index finger an inch apart, she said, she and her brother were “like this much next to being caught. We were moved constantly — to alcoholics, prostitutes.” Once when she and her little brother were with a prostitute, only a curtain separated them from German officers. “We were running, running from death. It was a miracle.”

Spunky in red trousers and a leopard-print baseball hat, Mrs. Lieberman concluded, “I do have a story, and surviving is the best revenge.”

Museum director Sara Bloomfield said the “Tribute to Holocaust Survivors: Reunion of a Special Family” was foremost about connections. With many of the Holocaust survivors at the end of their lives, the importance of connecting the cause to the future is timely.

Downstairs in the main part of the museum, children interviewed family members and even strangers about their Holocaust experiences.

Eleven-year-old Yaniv Brener and his 8-year-old twin sisters, Stephanie and Dana, interviewed a woman they did not know.

The children’s grandmother survived the Holocaust, and Dana said she hoped nothing like that happens again.


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