USA: Naval Hospital Bremerton Holds “Holocaust- National Days of Remembrance”
Naval Hospital Bremerton held a “Holocaust – National Days of Remembrance” commemoration tribute for command staff members and beneficiaries April 12.
The event, sponsored by the command’s Diversity Council, featured the theme of ‘Never Again, heeding the warning signs.’
Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Laura Blanco of Branch Health Clinic Bangor spoke of the importance of remembering and to “never forget” the Holocaust.
Blanco reminded the assembled crowd about events leading up to World War II, the warning signs that were happening in Europe with the growing segregation of Jewish people, and the staggering fact that an estimated six million Jewish people perished as a result of the holocaust atrocities.
The remembrance also included a candle tribute by NHB staff with each candle signifying one million deceased. The tribute was highlighted by a televised feature of the keynote speaker for the event; former labor and concentration camp survivor Gerda Weissman. Weissman was 15 when Germany invaded Poland in September of 1939. She was placed in a “Dulag (transit work camp)’ where she spent the next three years at a series of labor and concentration camps, narrowly avoiding being executed on several occasions.
In her own words, she shared her narrative.
“After being moved to Bielsko’s ghetto, I was deported in 1942 to work in a textile mill in Bolkenhain, Silesia. Despite the hunger and backbreaking labor, there was caring among the inmates. A German supervisor, Mrs. Kugler, even saved my life. I’d fallen ill and gone to the camp hospital. Mrs. Kugler knew that an SS man was inspecting and that the sick would be gassed. She dragged me back to the factory, started my loom and set me in front of it. I was delirious from fever, but I passed the inspection.”
In 1945, Weissman was forced to walk along with 2,000 other women in a harrowing 350-mile Nazi death march to evade advancing allied forces. The women were exposed to harsh winter conditions, along with starvation and humiliation. Many were summarily executed along the route. She was one of just 120 women who survived the march and was liberated in May of 1945 by the United States Army. At the time of her liberation, her weight was 68 pounds, and she hadn’t bathed in years. She later immigrated to the US in 1946 with husband Lt. Kurt Klein who was member of the US Army that liberated Weissman in Volary, Czechoslovakia.
Naval Hospital Bremerton Executive Officer Capt. Maureen Pennington closed the ceremony by thanking all the participants of the event. Pennington also reflected back to her vivid memories of seeing Life Magazine concentration camp photos at age eight. At age 12 she read “The Diary of Anne Frank” and later passed on the book to her own daughter.
“Seeing those pictures in Life magazine was really the first real views of death I’d ever experienced. It was the one moment that everyone has in their life where they see something, particularly at such a young age that stays with you forever. And I’ve always remembered. Reading the Anne Frank book and being able to pass it along to my daughter because the book meant so much to me was very important to me. Later in my life I was able to get to Amsterdam and see where Anne Frank lived. I’ll always remember her courage. We must never forget and always remember,” said Pennington.
Naval Today Staff, April 16, 2013; Image: