“It was raining, and she was crying the whole way there,” Mills says. “They got there, the rain stopped, she walked through those famous gates and turned around, and there, standing at the car, were 15 people, her children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren. The Nazis hadn’t triumphed over her.”
Related performances include the Miami Children’s Chorus in selections from Brundibar, an opera created for Jewish children in the Nazi ghetto of Terezin on Oct. 27 and the Zoetic Stage’s I Am My Own Wife, about a transvestite in Nazi Germany, through Oct. 21, both at the Arsht. In Miami Beach, the Bass Museum will screen The Rape of Europa, a documentary about the Nazi plunder of Jewish-owned art, on Oct. 25, and the Jewish Museum of Florida is linking an exhibit on Jewish immigration to America to the program.
Other events include anti-bullying sessions for public school teachers and administrators and the Anti-Defamation League’s No Place for Hate art and poetry program in Miami-Dade County Public Schools, the results of which will be exhibited at the Arsht Center’s Family Fest on Nov. 3.
The connection between schoolyard bullying and death camps may seem tenuous, but Nazi repression began with similar personal injustices.
Kassenoff, who organized a symposium at the Arsht Center on Oct. 13 and 14 with lectures by Holocaust scholars and authors, says she is haunted by a survivor’s story of how, when a Hitler Youth gang beat him and stole his bike, his best friend watched and did nothing. Decades later, he returned to Germany and found his friend. “He asked him, ‘How could you just stand by?’” Kassenoff says. “And the friend said, ‘I don’t remember.’”
More than 400 reservations have been received for Saturday night’s Light/Holocaust lecture by rabbi and Holocaust scholar Michael Berenbaum, evidence of the natural audience here for such programming. South Florida is home to 18,000 to 19,000 Holocaust survivors, the second largest such population in the United States and the third largest after Israel, and Miami-Dade’s Jewish population of about 113,000 is the nation’s 10th largest.
The Arsht Center’s Richard believes that a multicultural community such as ours needs to be particularly alert to the dangers of misunderstanding and prejudice.
“We’re more vulnerable to intolerance because we are so diverse,” he says. “How do we make that transformation from what may be the most horrific human event in civilization to the topic of bullying in schools? The message here is about indifference. … Too often we stand by and say nothing.”
Those who have experienced the brutal effects of such indifference often cannot leave it behind. Roger Ward, an adjunct curator at the Bass Museum who helps Holocaust survivors research the fate of artworks lost to the Nazis, says they are often driven as much by emotional need as material desire.
“Often this is all that’s left of their lives and their families’ lives before the war,” says Ward, who will lecture on Nazi-era provenance research and restitution at the Bass on Thursday. (A previous lecture on the same subject drew more than 400 people.)
“There are many people who want those things back whether or not they’re worth anything. They want closure, they want to feel emotionally and psychologically whole again. The dignity of their family is restored in some small way.”