West Hollywood observes Holocaust Remembrance Day

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Elya Gelman, 83, from left, with wife Sofia Gelman, 79, and friend Marc Skibinsky, 85, after lighting candles at the Babi Yar memorial at Plummer Park in West Hollywood, Sunday, April 11, 2010.

Marc Skibinsky, 85, has been attending Yom Hashoa (Holocaust Remembrance Day) events every year for the past 20 years that he has been in Los Angeles. He was part of the gathering of some 150 people who came together at Plummer Park in West Hollywood on Sunday to observe a day in memory of the six million Jews who died in the Holocaust.

“I cried,” said Skibinsky, talking about his reaction during a theater performance at the event. He said it reminded him of his grandmother and cousins who died in the Babi Yar carnage of 1941 in Kiev during World War II. Known as the most notorious single-operation massacre of Jews in the Soviet Union, it involved the killing of more than 33,000 Jews on Sept. 29 and 30.

“It’s important to take the time to remember this day, because history, unfortunately, has a way of repeating itself,” said Abbe Land, mayor of West Hollywood. “Though the Holocaust can’t be repeated, there are people around the world who are suffering their own holocaust. The best way to make sure that civil and human rights are not violated again is to pledge to protect rights all over the world.”

Sunday’s program included a musical theater performance – the premiere of “The Kingdom of Night,” based on the thoughts and writings of Elie Wiesel, the Nobel Prize-winning writer and Holocaust survivor.

Set to soulful piano music, the performers spoke about the horrors of the Holocaust and of the importance of hope and faith. “The one thing that can be learned from the Holocaust is the catastrophic effect of apathy / The opposite of hope is not despair, the opposite of peace is not war / hope is the key to uncover faith / it’s a reason to live,” sang the performers.

After the program, guests lit candles at the Babi Yar memorial in Plummer Park.

Rae Mitchell, 89, said the performance “kind of broke her up” and reminded her of her visit to the museum in Auschwitz last April, where she saw the belongings of those who had died in concentration camps. Mitchell said her mother’s family had relatives who were killed in Auschwitz. “I was in college at the time, and I remember when the letters from Europe stopped coming. And then we found out through the American Red Cross that they had died,” she said.

Sofia Gelman, 79, a retired doctor, said the evening reminded her of the extreme hardships her family had faced while fleeing Ukraine during World War II. “We have to teach the world to be tolerant to every nation. We have to give people a sense of what we went through, and this performance did exactly that.”

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