"Observance of Religious Festivals and Beliefs during the War"

Three Survivors Address

On December 17th three Holocaust survivors spoke about the "Observance of Religious Festivals and Beliefs during the War". The evening was extremely moving as each of the three survivors: Mr. Ben Kamieniecki, Mr. Philip Maisel and Mr. Jacky Unikowski vividly relived their wartime experiences in relation to Judaism and the accompanying festivals. The speakers may have differed in their philosophical points of view but were united in the belief that there were lessons to be learned from the Holocaust. We wish to thank them for making themselves available and sharing some of their very personal thoughts. Some of the points covered included:

Mr. Ben Kamieniecki:

In 1939 a huge mass of Jews were not religiously observant.
The Shoah was our greatest defeat yet at the same time our greatest victory; it was a time of unprecedented tenacity and determination.

Mr. Philip Maisel:

People needed something to believe in ie. religion.
Religion kept Jews together; it was a springboard for Zionism.
Despite extreme food shortages in the ghetto people often tried to save a little bit of food for Friday night. Many believed it was imperative to maintain religious observance so that God would ultimately save them, eg. despite extreme hunger many refused to eat unkosher meat.
Jewish Calendars were smuggled into the Ghetto whenever the opportunity presented itself.

Mr. Jacky Unikowski:

There was no organized observance, it was done on an individual basis.
The Yom Tovim were frequently a time to fear. The Nazis were aware of the dates and in fact often increased their oppression on the Jewish inmates.
It is our duty to remember what happened.
The only good thing to come out of the Holocaust was the establishment of the State of Israel.

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