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DoD Remembers the Holocaust

By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 12, 2002 – The Defense Department joined 21 other federal agencies at the ninth annual Federal Interagency Holocaust Remembrance observance here at the Lincoln Theater April 11.

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Army Sgt. 1st Class Beverly Benda of the U.S. Army Band, "Pershing's Own," sings "Es Brent (It Burns)" in Yiddish during the Holocaust Remembrance observance at Washington's Lincoln Theater. Photo by Rudi Williams

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The observance was part of the annual Days of Remembrance that runs through April 14. This year's theme is "Memories of Courage." The theme honors those who took a stand against Nazism.

The Lincoln Theater observance featured stories about the role Turkish people played in saving Jews from the Nazis. Holocaust survivors Peter Engelmann, Matthias Neumark and Flora Singer talked about their experiences living and working in Turkey during World War II.

The keynote speaker was Bernard Turiel who was born on the Isle of Rhodes in 1934. Rhodes, a Greek island, is in the southeastern Aegean Sea.

Turiel said in July 1944, the German SS (a quasi-military unit of the Nazi party) rounded up the Jews of Rhodes to be sent to the concentration camp at Auschwitz. The Turkish consul, Selahattin Ulkumen, intervened on behalf of those who were Turkish subjects and more than 50 were saved.

The Turiel family left Rhodes for Turkey in January 1945. They emigrated to the United States in July 1946.

Lydia Kleiner of the Labor Department's Public Affairs Office and Susan Miles of the Agriculture Department recited a Kaddish in the ancient Aramaic language, punctuated with the names of Nazi concentration camps.. Both women's parents are Holocaust survivors.

The U.S. Army Band, "Pershing's Own," performed a musical prelude and postlude for the ceremony. The musical highlight was Army Sgt. 1st Class Beverly Benda singing in Yiddish, "Es Brent (It Burns)." Mordechai Gebirtig in Przytyk, Poland, wrote the song in 1936. In October 1940, he and his family were sent to Lagiewniki, a sub-camp of Auschwitz. The Germans shot him on "Bloody Thursday," June 4, 1942.

Es Brent was sung in the ghettos and camps and is one of the most frequently performed songs commemorating the Holocaust. Benda said it wasn't difficult to learn Es Brent in Yiddish. "Before I came into the Army, I sang with a group at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y., for the high holy days at the Jewish temple," she noted.

A professor at the school taught Benda, a Lutheran, to speak Yiddish and Hebrew. "So when I came to the band, they handed me a handful of these songs and asked if I could do them. I said, 'sure.'"


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Click photo for screen-resolution imageSgt. 1st Class Barbara Vigil plays flute with the Army Band during the Holocaust Remembrance ceremony at Washington's Lincoln Theater on April 11, 2002. Photo by Rudi Williams  
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