‘Holocaust Remembrance is every day for me’ Berkowitz says
Before a standing-room only crowd Thursday, Dr. Irving Berkowitz, the son of Holocaust survivors, told a moving story of the pain he still carries knowing the anguish his parents experienced, particularly his 93-year-old mother who survived seven concentration camps.
Showing black and white images of the cousins, uncles and aunts he lost and of the deaths of millions from starvation, gas chambers and other horrific treatment at the hands of the Nazi regime, he said it is difficult to know that there are individuals in the world who deny the Holocaust. He noted an international conference of Holocaust denial taking place in Iran on the same day.
“I lost most of my family in concentration camps,’’ said Berkowitz, dean of academic affairs at the Palm Beach State College Lake Worth campus. “Holocaust Remembrance Day is every day for me, especially in the summer when I see family reunions. My mother was the sole survivor of her entire family.”
The talk, titled “The Nazi Holocaust: A Maximum of Hatred, A Minimum of Reason,” was sponsored by the Professional Teaching & Learning Center on the Lake Worth campus. About 280 faculty, staff and students packed the Public Safety Conference Center on Holocaust Remembrance Day. This year marks 70 years since the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps at the end of World War II.
Berkowitz was joined in the audience by eight Holocaust survivors, including Leon Green who clutched a photo of himself and other survivors of the Ebensee concentration camp in Austria that the U.S. Third Army liberated on May 6, 1945.
Attendees said it is important for students and others to know this history. Berkowitz started the lecture showing slides of other genocides of the past century around the world and encouraged attendees to be informed. He said his experiences and the loss he suffered fueled his passion for social justice.
“Not all of the victims of the Holocaust were Jews, but all of the Jews were victims of the Holocaust,’’ he said, noting that six million Jews were killed by the Nazis.
“The conference did make me aware not just about the situation that happened in the Holocaust, but in the world. That just opened my eyes a lot,’’ said student Buckinson Levasseur, who is pursuing an Associate in Arts degree.
A survivor of Auschwitz II-Birkenau, Katharine Tambor first went into a concentration camp at 16, and she noted how the Nazi regime took able-bodied children and adults and put them to work as slave laborers. She worked on an assembly line making bombs. She described how people’s skins and eyes were tarnished as a result of the material used to make the explosives.
“People should know about it. It shouldn’t have happened,’’ said Tambor, a retired teacher from New York.
For more information about the Holocaust, visit the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.