Holocaust: Never Forget

ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. -- In the dim light, a projector screen displays the black and white image of an old man with a cane on a cobblestone street. 

His shadow shows a small boy with his parents and a sibling. A poignant reminder of what Holocaust Remembrance Day symbolizes.

Six million European Jews were murdered between 1939 and 1945. Millions of other people whom the Nazis declared as threatening to the perfect Arian race were also killed.

The question at the luncheon Wednesday in the Museum of Aviation's Hangar One was, "Why do we get together every year?"

Several people, including 78th Air Base Wing Commander Col. Jeff King and Warner Robins Mayor Randy Toms, answered that question. 

But none better than guest speaker Marsha Vandervort - the daughter of a holocaust survivor.

Her father was a prisoner at Auschwitz, one of the most well-known of the concentration camps. 

Although he didn't speak of his time there to his daughter, Vandervort learned early on that hiding her Jewish identity was of utmost importance, even after immigrating to the U.S.

Vandervort told of how she found a tallit, her grandfather's prayer shawl, when she was a child exploring the house she lived in with her father and grandparents. 

Her French grand-mère saw the young girl outside, twirling the shawl around and gathered her in her arms and told a young Marsha to never let anyone know she was Jewish or they would take her away.

Such is the fear that was harbored in 1951 in a Midwestern Ohio town. 

Even their closest neighbors didn't realize the family was Jewish.

As a Kentucky schoolgirl, Vandervort and another girl, who was black, were separated from their class.

Fast forward to the Civil Rights Movement and Vandervort was arrested on a march with Martin Luther King from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama.

As Vandervort struggled to share the stories of her youth, her voice breaking at times, the impact of her words left many people in tears.

Why is it important to remember an event which is such a scar in the history of mankind? How does it educate people about the events which led to a regime where millions of people were wiped out because they were different?

"It really happened. It could happen again," Toms explained in a rare prepared speech he made just because he wanted to be sure the significance of the day was not lost.

King explained that we shape our future through the actions of the past if we learn from the lessons that history has taught us.

A Holocaust survivor spoke on a U.S. Holocaust Museum video about how these acts were not in a third world country, but in Germany, a country respected around the world.

"It was made up of so many people who made it possible. Ordinary men and women simply going with the flow," the survivor said.

As the final speaker, Lt. Col. Jonathan Wade, 78th Air Base Wing Chaplain, made a point that this was not a day just to relive the atrocities of World War II.

"One person can do great things. We can illuminate the world so that it would be a better place," he said.