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April 22, 1983 - Image 3

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1983-04-22

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

The American Gathering

(

By ESTHER ALLVVEISS
TSCHIRHART

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KEREN KAYENIETH LEISRAEL

I

Biasiatka.
The name of this concen-
tration camp in Poland may
not evoke the dread of
places like Auschwitz-
Birkenau, Bergen-Belsen or
Treblinka.
Until last week, during
the American Gathering of
Jewish Holocaust Survivors
in Washington, D.C., my
father never told me about
Biasiatka. But it was here
that he and many members
of his family from Jaslany,
Poland lived in terror dur-
ing the Holocaust.
My
father, Zyga
Allweiss, and his brother,
Salek (Sol) escaped death
through their own daring
on the day the remaining
prisoners were to be liq-
uidated — March 7, 1943.
The brothers, who were
just teenagers then, be-
lieve they are the only
survivors of the 300-400
Jews interned at
Biasiatka.

Dad and Uncle Sol lost
their parents, Jacob and
Esther, and seven siblings
during the Holocaust, as
well as a way of life they
never dreamed would end.
More than 40 years later,
my father — husband to
Irma, father of five, suc-
cessful businessman — still
lives with his painful
memories and unanswered

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questions.
I believe he went to the
American Gathering as a
way of coming to terms with
his expericence at last. Per-
haps there were still still
some tears to shed. Most
importantly, there also was
a glimmer of hope — shared
by so many of the survivors
— that he would find some-
one he knew from "before."
Perhaps he might even
learn the fate of Fishel
Allweiss, the one brother
unaccounted for in the war
(thought to have been im-
prisoned in Siberia).
For me and my sister
Elizabeth, a graduate
student in psychology at
Eastern Michigan Uni-
versity, attending the
Gathering was our
opportunity to learn
more about the
Holocaust and its teach-
ings. Rather than view it
as a depressing event, I
hoped to be part of the
common celebration of
life signified by this com-
ing together of so many
survivors and their chil-
dren.

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

Friday, April 22, 1983 3

Education and Catharsis

line to sign the Scroll of Re-
membrance (later pre-
sented to President Re-
agan), a woman told me
about the fiance lost in
Germany some 42 years
ago. During a panel entitled
"Journey of Conscience: A
Trip to the Camps and
Major Cities in Eastern
Europe," I attempted to
comfort another woman,
survivor of Auschwitz, who
wept while watching
present-day slides of the
camp.
I shared some happy mo-
ments, too. Leo Beals of
Lathrup Village was re-
united with Mollie and Leon
Nelson, both of whom he
knew in Mlawa, Poland.
The Nelsons' son Fred first
spotted Mlawa on Beals'
nametag and quickly ar-
ranged the meeting. De-
troiter Louis Kay said he
met a couple of men he knew
from concentration camps;
Eva Mames found someone
from her hometown in Hun-
gary.
Such reunions, whether
by chance or with the help of
computers, gave a special
As stated by Benjamin uplift to the Gathering.
The Gathering's clos-
Meed, organizer of the
Gathering and a survivor of ing ceremonies, held out-
the Warsaw Ghetto Upris- doors on a somewhat
ing, the participants "are chilly and windy night,
here as proud Jews, as nevertheleSs was impres-
proud Americans and as sive, and deeply moving.
A special gesture was
proud survivors."
I also came to the confer- tendered by two sur-
ence hoping to understand vivors, Leon Weinberg
my father better. While and Abraham
growing up, my sisters, Rosenholtz of Connec-
brother and I always knew ticut, who provided a
he loved us; yet, he kept us boxed meal for partici-
at a distance emotionally. pants containing wine,
Sharing the Gathering to- apple, bread and cheese.
gether, I hoped, would pro- The inscription read in
vide the clue to his personal- part: ". . through our
continued unity and re-
ity and bring us closer.
It was time to hear his membrance may our
stories about what hap- people never suffer the
pened to him and his family pain of hunger again."
during that ugliness called Everyone also received a
the Holocaust. Dad needed yahrzeit candle to light.
As a member of the sec-
to talk to his children at
last, to let us share his bur- ond generation, I took part
den because we are his chil- in programming and panels.
dren and we love him. And significant to my role. Re-
because we want to re- presenting the children,
member . . . and teach our some of the speakers I heard
were Sam Gejdenson,
children to remember.
The Gathering was in- member of Congress; Dr.
deed historic, as many of Steven Meed, son of Gather-
ing chairman Benjamin
the speakers noted dur-
ing the three-day event. Meed; Detroiter Charles
More than 15,000 persons Silow, a founder of CHAIM
(Children of the Holocaust
assembled at the Wash-
ington Convention Cen- Survivors Association in
ter from across the Michigan); and Menahem Z.
Rosensaft, chairman of the
United States and
Canada. They arrived International Network' of
Children of Jewish
separately, but as Meed
noted, they would "leave Holocaust Survivors.
These leaders of my gen-
as one for the end of
time."
eration showed insight and
He did not overstate. For compassion in talking about
me, it was three days of the Holocaust, their parents
warmth and caring I've and their own responses.
never witnessed before. I've Jeffrey Kent, son of a sur-
never felt more a part of the vivor, said: "Why are we
Jewish people or more here today? To show the
world we were not beaten
proud to be who I am.
Everywhere I went dur- into oblivion. Their story is
ing the conference, I saw the told not to elicit pity, respect
full range of human expres- or love, but because it hap-
sion. Hugs and kisses in the pened . . ."
joyful reunions of landsmen
Dr. John Mames, a former
— and also the sad, disap- president of Detroit's
pointed eyes of other sur- Shaarit Haplaytah - Sur-
vivors of 1945 organization,
vivors unable to find a
spoke of his hopes for the
familiar face from yester-
children of the Holocaust
day.
There were no strangers (he was among the 250-300
here really. As I stood in Detroiters who attended the

Gathering, many of them
affiliated with Shaarit Hap-
laytah and Albert Einstein
Lodge and Chapter of Bnai
Brith).
"It is inspiring to see
the younger generation
ready to assume the dif-
ficult responsibility to
perpetuate the lessons of
the Holocaust," said Dr.
Mames. "The desire to
understand what hap-
pened will reduce the
chances of it ever re-
occurring."
Years ago, he said,
educators would tell sur-
vivors not to pass on their
Holocaust stories to their
children. " 'Why torture
yourself they would say,"
said Dr. Mames. The
Holocaust was still too re-
cent an event for survivors
to talk about, or for the out-
side world, in its growing
sense of shame, to deal with.
The inability of the sur-
vivors to talk about their
experiences with their chil-
dren was captured in a film
shown at the conference. "A
Generation Apart," pro-
duced and directed by Jack
Fisher, a child of survivors,
dealt with the impact of the
Holocaust on families.
The special circum-
stances of growing up - a
child of survivors was de-
lineated quite honestly in a
series of interviews with
members of the Fisher fam-
ily, as well as several of
Jack's second-generation

friends.
It was when his wife
Shelley asked her mother
why she had time to listen
to the problems of
everyone but her daugh-
ter and always seemed to
put her off, that some-
thing clicked for me.
The mother, a concentra-
tion camp survivor, re-
sponded to her adult daugh-
ter in this way: "Yes, Shel-
ley, I kept you at a distance.
You learn you can't love at
the camps; you had to look
out for yourself. And, it car-
ried over after the war. I
learned if you love too
much, you can lose them.
"I know I owe my children
an apology."
She paused.
"I don't know who owes
me an apology."

Confidence placed in an-
other often compels confi-
dence in return.
—Livy



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