Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and students from Chicago Public Schools and the Archdiocese of Chicago Catholic Schools joined Holocaust survivors, elected officials, civic leaders and foreign dignitaries at the Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center today for the annual Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony.
"We gather today not just as members of a Jewish community, remembering what happened to our own ancestors—we come together as people of different cultures, colors, creeds and histories—one community, standing in solidarity against hatred,” said Mayor Emanuel. “The Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center does not just help us remember the past, it promotes mutual understanding in the present and the future. The Museum helps us understand the importance of fighting bigotry and hatred everywhere, so we can stand together against racism and intolerance in all its forms.”
Along with a group of more than 70 students and teachers, representatives from the Consulates of Bulgaria, Germany, Turkey and the Ukraine as well as The Honorable Orli Gil, Consul General of Israel to the Midwest were in attendance.
The program featured a keynote address by Holocaust survivor Janine Oberrotman. Born in Lvov, Poland, Oberrotman escaped from a Jewish ghetto and went into hiding until she was arrested and deported to a forced labor camp in Stuttgart. She was freed in 1945, having lost her parents and most of her extended family.
“I am grateful to have the opportunity to share my experience—as tragic as it was—with others,” said Oberrotman. “I believe it is by telling our stories and setting aside time to remember the events of the past that will ultimately help us to change the future.”
The event concluded with a ceremonial candle lighting ceremony. In remembrance of the estimated 6 million Jews who perished in the Holocaust, six candles were lit by Mayor Emanuel, Janine Oberrotman, Holocaust survivors Estelle Laughlin, George Brent, Joe Koek, Adele Zaveduk and Leon Goldberg. A student was paired with each survivor to light the candles. This year, a seventh memorial candle lit by Cambodian genocide survivor Leon Lim and Holocaust survivor and Museum president Fritzie Fritzshall served as a reminder of the ongoing atrocities and genocide in the world today.
The Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center opened in April 2009. It is likely the last international institution to be built with the active participation of Holocaust survivors. The Museum is dedicated to preserving the memories of those lost in the Holocaust and to teaching current generations to confront hatred, indifference and genocide in their own time.