Exactly 70 years have passed since Helen Wakshlag was liberated from Bergen-Belsen, but she still carries the painful memories from the Nazi concentration camp.
Her eyes tear up as she recalls the day she was sent to the concentration camp in 1939.
“It was the last time I saw my father,” she said, her voice shaky. “He was standing there looking at me.”
Wakshlag, 88, lost her father, grandparents and brothers in the camps. For years, she did not talk about her tragic past, even to her children.
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“I didn’t push on them my past when they were younger,” Wakshlag said.
But now she wants them to remember because she sees their success as proof that the Nazis failed.
On Thursday her son, Stanley, accompanied Wakshlag to a ceremony to commemorate Yom Hashoah, or Holocaust Remembrance Day, held at assisted-living facility The Palace in Coral Gables.
“It is important for [my children] and everyone to be active to prevent anything similar from happening again and support organizations that will keep people safe and love people,” Wakshlag said.
Wakshlag, along with two other Holocaust survivors who reside at The Palace, were invited to light six tall yellow candles that represent the six million Jews lost in the death camps. Isle Fischbach also lit a candle in honor of her late husband, who survived the Holocaust.
Their families gathered around them as they lit the candles and said the mourner’s Kaddish prayer in remembrance of those lost.
Participant Otto Delikat, 95, said there has not been a year that has passed that he does not take the day to remember how fortunate he was to survive five years of imprisonment. He was sent to suffer in several camps, including Auschwitz and Dachau.
Tattooed on his left forearm, his identification number, 69840, has faded over the decades, but still is visible.
He vows to remember and tells his children and grandchildren about the Holocaust often.
“They all know,” Delikat said. “I talk about it on holidays, like Passover. The point is when there is someone who tells their story, they can reinforce emotionally the Holocaust and make sure that it never happens again.”
Chabad of Kendall and Pinecrest Rabbi Yossi Harlig led the ceremony and talked about how he struggled to fully grasp the horrific events Holocaust and the destruction it caused.
It was not until he went on the March of the Living with survivors to pay visits to the former death camps that Harlig began to fully understand.
“I never really identified with it until two years ago,” Harlig said.
Harlig said he now realizes that Yom Hashoah is about remembering those lost, but also deciding what to make of this tragedy.
“I wish it would be that simple, that these things wouldn’t happen again just by us remembering,” Harlig said.