Leon Salomon tried to hold back tears when he spoke of his sister, Chava, and his escape from the Nazis who shot her.
Salomon, who recounted his story of being the sole remaining member of his immediate family and joining the Soviet Army, was among 35 other Holocaust survivors at a luncheon at the Hillel House yesterday.
Compelled to share his memory of Chava, Salomon echoed the sentiments of the event and the last words of his sister — “never forget.”
For LSA junior Jaclyn Einstein, a third generation Holocaust survivor, Salomon’s words rang true. Her own paternal grandparents lost all of their brothers, sisters and parents and were forced to work in many concentration camps across Germany, including Auschwitz.
Old enough now to understand, Einstein said she needed her grandmother’s stories and those of other survivors to understand her own heritage and family.
“I feel like it’s my duty to remember what happened,” she said. “I’m here because my grandmother survived. My grandparents both survived.”
Einstein said she thought the luncheon gave attendees a chance to hear firsthand the stories and plights of survivors.
The University of Michigan Hillel’s Conference on the Holocaust sponsored yesterday’s luncheon, which was attended by more than 250 people — many of whom were students.
Business junior Elianna Starr, a co-chair for the Conference on the Holocaust, said last year’s luncheon aimed to reach out to as many people as possible but had done so largely within the Jewish community. This year, she said the event sought to increase awareness to a broader audience.
“Our goal was to branch out and try to get people who may have not even heard of the Holocaust or met a Holocaust survivor,” she said.
LSA sophomore Alex Rosenthal, another co-chair for the Conference on the Holocaust, said he hoped the event will continue to be held annually so students will always be given the opportunity to hear survivors’ stories.
“There can never be enough Holocaust remembrance,” he said.
Rosenthal added that with time, people come to forget the most terrible details of the Holocaust and of the stories of its survivors. For that reason, he said it was of the utmost importance to preserve the memories of an already dwindling number of survivors.
Last year’s luncheon hosted more than 60 survivors, many of whom had passed away or couldn’t to attend this year because of poor health.
The event was concluded with six University students, who were third-generation Holocaust survivors, lighting six candles to honor and remember the 6 million Jews killed during the Holocaust.
“We hope that relationships were made today and that people’s lives were changed,” Rosenthal said.