Kristallnacht ceremony highlights light in dark world
Illinois Holocaust Museum Executive Director Rick Hirschhaut (left) and Mark Terlecki, grandson of Katarzyna Moroz, unveil Moroz's plaque during a Kristallnacht ceremony Sunday at the museum. | Curtis Lehmkuhl~Sun-Times Media
NEW FOUNTAIN OF RIGHTEOUS HEROES
• Archbishop Damiskinos
Damaskinos was a leader in battling against the German policy to annihilate the Jews of Greece. He also pushed for all priests to extend aid and all convents to provide safe haven.
• Dimitris Spilakos
Spilakos, an attorney in Thessalonloniki, helped several families escape to Athens and arranged for continued assistance that kept them safe during the Jewish occupation.
• Andree Geulen-Herscovici
Geulen-Herscovici provided shelter and safety to local Holocaust survivor Marguerite Mishkin and her sister, Annette, who were children at the time of World War II. He was involved with the Belgian Resistance movement.
• Katarzyna Moroz
Moroz took in a young Jewish woman and her daughter, 3, telling neighbors they were distant cousins. When Moroz’s husband threatened to expose the Jews, she relocated them to the home of her married daughter in another town. This saved them from deportation and certain death at the hands of the Nazis.
— Mike Isaacs
Updated: December 16, 2012 6:32AM
SKOKIE — Out of recognition of the darkest of nights comes celebration of light.
That’s the way the Illinois Holocaust Museum has always commemorated the anniversary of Kristallnacht, the sanctioned unleashing of terror against Jews in Germany and Austria referred to as the November pogrom.
The museum never glosses over the history of that terrible brutality 74 years ago, but it also showcases rare brave and heroic deeds during such a horrific time.
Illinois Holocaust Museum Executive Director Rick Hirschhaut said Sunday that the museum’s annual event “honors those precious few who at great risk to their own lives and that of their families said no.
“They stood and resisted and pushed back against the Nazi juggernaut,” he said. “It is estimated that less than one-half of 1 percent of the population of Europe fit that hallowed and sacred category.”
Many of those who did are recognized outside Skokie’s museum near the Ferro Fountain of the Righteous where the names of four heroes were added Sunday to the surrounding wall.
“Here at the museum we honor those whose righteousness not only saved lives at that time, but in so doing, preserved and assured that new life would be created — would come forward out of the ashes of Auschwitz, and Bergen-Belsen and other places that dot the blood-soaked lands of Europe,” Hirschhaut said.
Kristallnacht means “Night of Broken Glass” in reference to Nov. 9, 1938, when Jewish stores, businesses, homes and houses of worship were destroyed during orchestrated acts of violence. Some believe “Kristallnacht” is not an adequate name to define the horror of that night, considered by Holocaust historians as the “end of the beginning and beginning of the end.”
Sunday’s program unveiled new plaques at the fountain honoring rescuers from Greece, Belgium and Poland. Two of the rescuers were from Greece, which was the subject of special attention Sunday both during the outside and inside ceremonies.
The four rescuers — Archbishop Damaskinos, Dimitris Spiliakos, Andree Geulen-Herscovici and Katarzyna Moroz — earlier received the highest designation of “Righteous” from Yad Vashim, the Holocaust Museum in Israel.
“One of (Yad Vashim’s) principled duties is to convey gratitude from the Jewish people to the Righteous Among the Nations — non-Jews — who risked their lives to save Jewish people through the Holocaust,” said Maya Carmely representing the Consulate General of Israel. “These individuals showed that even during the darkest days there are people with shining inner spirit.”
Counsel General of Greece Ioanna Efthymiadou summarized her country’s efforts to save Jews during World War II.
“This is a touching moment for us,” Efthymiadou said about the museum’s recognition of Greece. “It’s a long overdue honor and memory from people of the Greek nations that put their lives in danger in order to help their friends — the Greek Jews. This is not a very well-known (part) of our history.”
The museum — fulfilling its mission to educate, to never forget — offered a view of the critical night of Nov. 9, 1938, from someone who survived it.
Ernest Fruehauf was just 13 at the time, a child in Kitzingen, Germany. His family owned a confectionery shop and his childhood was happy when their world changed forever.
“All of a sudden we heard all of this noise on the street,” he said. “There was shouting and shrieking, anti-Semitic remarks, a front door being bashed in. All hell broke loose.”
Fruehauf’s father was taken to the Dachau concentration camp and later released, returning a quiet and somber man.
“One thing he became aware of as soon as he came home — the one thing he said — was that these Nazis, the first chance they get, are going to kill us all,” Fruehauf recounted.
The family reacted; however, they were not able to escape until two harrowing years later.
It was Aug. 9, 1941, when they saw the Statute of Liberty for the first time.