ERIE, Pa. — The genocide of an estimated six million Jews, and millions more, is being remembered.
“There is only one Holocaust,” said Jeff Pinski, a member of the Jewish Community Council of Erie. “ It’s terrible when you hear people trying to make analogies or comparisons. There are no analogies. There are no comparisons.”
The Jewish Community Council of Erie hosted its annual Yom HaShoah Memorial Observance Sunday at the Jefferson Educational Society.
Six candles were lit–one for each million Jews killed.
Mary Alice Ditullio, an Erie schoolteacher, lit a seventh candle in honor of the “Righteous Gentiles,” the name given to non-Jews who risked their lives to protect the people who were persecuted.
“There’s still a lot of prejudice and hatred in the world,” said Ditullio. “I think that (the ceremony) helps to open their eyes and helps students and other people to learn to respect all different cultures and ethnicities.”
For six years, the Jewish Community Council has sponsored field trips to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum for Ditullio’s students at Wilson Middle School.
She said, “It really has a big impact on them and how they treat others.”
Walter Harf is also making an impact. He shares with students and the community his story of living in an oppressive Nazi Germany, but he chooses not to call himself a survivor.
“A survivor is a person, in my opinion, who actually went through the camps. I was a victim of the Nazi Holocaust, because we were forced forced out of Germany in 1937.”
Harf’s family escaped to America and settled in Erie, because of family connections. Now, 80 years later, he says the atrocity must be remembered.
“The theme is ‘never forget.’ Never forget what wrong people can do in humanity to each other. Never forget the fact that probably 20 million people were killed during the Holocaust time–of them, six million were Jews, which were purposefully put to death, because of their religion.”