The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum will commemorate its 25th anniversary with a “What You Do Matters” dinner in Philadelphia on Sept. 27.
The Washington, D.C.-based museum will honor Holocaust survivors from the Philadelphia area with the Elie Wiesel Award, which has been given annually since 2011 to individuals who confront hatred, prevent genocide and promote human dignity.
The dinner supports the museum’s $1 billion campaign, Never Again: What You Do Matters. The museum expects about 150 attendees at the event, which will be held at the Crystal Tea Room.
“We remind ourselves that a big part of our mission is not resting on our laurels,” said Andres Abril, director of the museum’s Mid-Atlantic regional office. “And making sure we are persistent and committed to doing what we’re founded to do. It starts with memory, and that starts with the people we’re honoring.”
One of the survivors being honored is Joel Fabian. The 79-year-old travels to area middle schools, high schools and colleges teaching about the Holocaust from a child’s perspective. His family was sent from Berlin to the Theresienstadt concentration camp in the Czech Republic when he was a boy.
He’s been to numerous Holocaust remembrance events, but in recent years he’s picked up on a trend.
“It feels strange, because every year there’s less and less of us that meet and get together,” Fabian said.
The survivors’ appearance is especially important, Abril noted, given the museum’s commitment to generational awareness of what happened in Nazi Germany and elsewhere in Europe. Eventually, survivors will give way to other generations, leaving behind second-hand accounts as the only proof of the Holocaust. It’s imperative those memories stand the test of time, Abril said.
“Five years from now, 10 years from now, 15 years from now, there will be fewer [survivors],” he said. “Our kids and their kids will probably not have that opportunity, so that requires us to be able to share that with them.”
Abril said he still occasionally comes across Holocaust deniers. He offered a comparison to describe his interactions with such people: “Try arguing with somebody who thinks the Earth is flat. You can imagine where that goes.”
Holocaust deniers have become more publicly vocal in recent years, and some are running for political office. Patrick Little, who spewed hateful rhetoric during his “Name the Jew” tour, campaigned for the U.S. Senate in California. He was crushed in the state’s two-party primary, earning just 1.4 percent of votes and finishing tied for 12th.
Fellow denier Arthur Jones is the Republican nominee for the U.S. House of Representatives to represent the 3rd Congressional District of Illinois.
“It is very disturbing. It is very, very disturbing, and it’s scary that these people get any traction whatsoever. It’s a matter of real concern,” said Deborah Lipstadt, the Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish History and Holocaust Studies at Emory University. The historian and author recently completed her third term as a Museum Council member and chair of the Museum’s Committee on Holocaust Denial and Anti-Semitism, and will be the featured speaker on Sept. 27.
Lipstadt gained widespread acclaim for her successful defense in the case brought against her by Holocaust denier David Irving. Her book about the case, History on Trial: My Day in Court with David Irving, was a National Jewish Book Award winner.
Her latest book, Antisemitism: Here and Now, will be published in early 2019. She’ll discuss that work at the museum dinner.
“There is anti-Semitism coming from both the left and the right. If you only see it from one side of the political spectrum you’re missing the bigger picture,” she said.
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