Andrew Moriber kneeled and traced his hands along two lines in a column inscribed with names at the Holocaust Memorial Miami Beach.
For him, the memorial’s wall, which is etched with thousands of names of Holocaust victims, is a close link to his family’s tragic past.
Nine of those names are of his relatives, which includes all of his grandparents, two half sisters, his father’s first wife and two uncles who all perished at the hand of the Nazis while living in Stanislav, now part of Ukraine.
“This is basically the closes thing to a grave that I have for my family,” said Moriber, 66.
He has visited the memorial many times over the years to pay his respects, but felt especially compelled to come Sunday to commemorate Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, which officially begins at sundown Wednesday, and ends Thursday evening. More than 400 others gathered for the annual ceremony at the memorial.
This year’s ceremony coincided with two significant anniversaries — the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration and death camps and the 25th anniversary of the dedication of the Miami Beach memorial.
The memorial is a reminder of the horrors of the Holocaust, with a bronze outstretched arm tattooed with a number from Auschwitz with human figures clinging to the hand and to each other.
“For me, it is has close, personal meaning,” Moriber said. “For the world, this is something to remember what happened and be vigilant.”
The solemn ceremony, which is hosted by the Greater Miami Jewish Federation, observed the anniversaries with a candlelight vigil and musical performances by members of the New World Symphony.
“Once a year, we gather for the remembrance of the 6 million Jews who lost their lives in the Holocaust,” said Norman Braman, chair emeritus of the memorial.
When the memorial was first dedicated in 1990, Braman says there were about 15 buses full of Holocaust survivors who came for the ceremony. As survivors aged, there have been fewer in attendance.
George Katzman, 95, was a soldier with General George Patton’s Third Army when it liberated portions of the Dachau and Langwasser Lager concentration camps. A number of years ago, Katzman vowed to share his witness account more often as voices became scarce.
But Katzman, who spoke at the ceremony, did not always feel that way. When he returned from the war, he spoke little of the horrors he saw.
“For 30 years, I had PTSD,” Katzman said. “I told my family only happy things.”
Then he heard about a professor in the Midwest who was a Holocaust denier.
“I was so angry, so that was when I started to speak,” Katzman said.
He declared that he would never be silent about the atrocities, and continue for the rest of his life to educate about them and remind others of what can grow out of hatred.
“As long as I can, I will speak,” Katzman said. “I am an eye witness”