Last week Doris Fogel spoke to a group of students at Ball State University.
Next week she’ll be speaking in Chicago, but she had to turn down a request to speak in Palm Springs, Calif., on Monday because she will be busy in Fort Wayne.
Fogel is unusual in many respects. First, she is a Holocaust survivor, a woman who fled Germany with her mother, an aunt, an uncle and a cousin when she was 4 years old, living in a single room in Shanghai, the only place in the world that was accepting Jews fleeing the Nazis. Everyone else in her family died in the Holocaust.
What is also unusual about Fogel, who is the executive director of the Fort Wayne Jewish Federation, is that she is one of the few survivors who is willing to talk about the Holocaust and her experiences.
A lot of survivors – Fogel says only five or six are left in Fort Wayne – don’t like to talk about their experiences. They haven’t even told their children about it. Perhaps they don’t want to relive the memories. Perhaps they feel guilt at having survived, Fogel says.
It is important, though, that people do talk about Germany’s attempt to exterminate the Jews, to make sure that the atrocity will never be forgotten.
And that’s why Monday is an important day. It is Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, an annual event in which the Holocaust is remembered, just to make sure it is never forgotten.
Already, though, the world is changing. Fogel travels to Germany often. She says she has been warned not to wear a Star of David outside her clothes. There are plenty of skinheads who might actually attack her. They don’t remember the Holocaust and sometimes don’t even believe it happened.
Oddly enough, when the names of Holocaust survivors are called at remembrance services in Fort Wayne, Fogel says, and they are asked to step forward and light a candle, youth group members have to step up for them. For some reason they won’t come forward.
Once again, maybe it’s guilt.
But it is as important now as ever that survivors do speak of their experiences.
Germany fell and the Holocaust ended 68 years ago. To some that’s a long time ago. In reality, it’s just a brief period.
In another 10 or 15 years, there will probably be few if any Holocaust survivors remaining. That’s when things start to be forgotten.
When we’re gone, people will learn about it from books, or on the Internet, Fogel says. But that’s not the same as someone who has been there, done that, she says.
There are organizations in large cities, composed of the children of Holocaust survivors, who are active in keeping the memory alive – or making sure that people don’t forget.
As long as we have a Holocaust Remembrance Day, people will remember, Fogel says. As long as there are Jewish Federations, as long as there are temples, people will remember.
As long as the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., stays open, and as long as the new Holocaust Museum in Skokie, Ill., continues to exist, it won’t be forgotten.
The remembrance service this year will be at 7 p.m. Monday at the Congregation Achduth Vesholom at 5200 Old Mill Road.