The community of Holocaust survivors lost a member on April 15, when William Loew, of Mt. Airy, died at the age of 96. Loew had spent decades trying to recreate the aroma and flavor of his family’s honey wine, and eventually established Loew Vineyards.
Twelve days after his death, Loew’s granddaughter stood in front of a gathering of 3GDC, a Washington-based organization of grandchildren of Holocaust survivors.
“When my grandfather would share stories of his past, he would speak so pointedly,” said Rachel Loew Lipman. “He would narrate each memory of his family and those close to him so well that they would come to life. I felt like I knew them. When my grandfather passed away, it felt as though his whole family passed with him. A loss so heavy, it is disorienting.”
She told the Yom Hashoah gathering at Sixth & I Historic Synagogue — one of many in the Washington Jewish community — that she felt grateful to be able to tell his story.
“My grandfather provided his memories of the Holocaust, which in turn gave life to each family member and friend who otherwise would have only existed as a number,” Loew Lipman said. “Each of these 6 million was a real person who had a life, family and aspirations for the future.”
With the number of survivors shrinking, firsthand accounts are “a diminishing resource,” said Zac Trupp, co-chair of 3GDC’s remembrance committee.
Trupp’s grandfather, Manny Mandel, 85, spoke to the 3GDC gathering. Raised in Budapest, he spent six months in Bergen-Belsen concentration camp at age 12 in 1945. Four years later, he and his mother immigrated to the United States.
Now a volunteer at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, Mandel said it is crucial to continue teaching people about the Holocaust, World War II and the events that led to them.
“One of the things that I noticed [while volunteering at the museum] was the lack of knowledge about the Second World War, about the 19th century, about the Holocaust,” Mandel said. “It is abominable.”
“My suggestion is to go out and learn,” Mandel said. “All of us can use enormous amounts of learning.”
“It means a lot to me to have people hear his stories, to meet him, hear from him, and carry my family’s history with them,” Trupp said.
Asked what can be done to prevent another Holocaust, Loew Lipman said that her family taught her to “never be a bystander.”
“I think my family really ingrained that into the children and grandchildren,” Loew Lipman said. “In my eyes it’s important to share acts of humanity to promote people to try to do better and to call things out as you see it.”
Silver Spring resident Chris Gray attended the event. “The Holocaust was like the ultimate trauma that could be bestowed upon people,” Gray said. “You never wish for that to happen again. But I think that there’s something to be found in the resilience of these people to come through something like that and then be willing to talk about it and pass down wisdom from generation to generation.”
“The primary sources in our world are important,” Trupp said. “They are vital to the story, to the truth and to history. Spreading the truth about what happened, and why it happened, and what we can do about it going forward is very important to us.”
Holocaust survivor Josie Traum was a keynote speaker at a virtual Yom Hashoah event on May 1, sponsored by the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington.
Traum was 3 years old when her mother sent her away from their hometown in Belgium to safety. A group of nuns took Traum in, along with other Jewish children, to live with Christian orphans.
Traum survived the war and was reunited with her mother. In 1949, they moved to New Jersey.
“My story is about people who really went out of their way to help,” Traum said in the Zoom event. “If people hadn’t helped me, I wouldn’t be here today.”
Some 1.5 million Jewish children died in the Holocaust. Traum was one of 6 to 11 percent of children who survived.
“The Holocaust uncovered the worst of humanity,” Northern Virginia Holocaust Commission co-chair Ellen Blalock said. “It also revealed courage and generosity. Many of the Jewish children who survived benefited from the righteous acts of strangers who stood up against tyranny, brutal retaliation and the stunning silence of indifference.”
Blalock said the upstanders who assisted Jews demonstrated the talmudic teaching that “to save a single life is to save the whole world.”