During an address at the April 21 Alabama “Days of Remembrance” observance, Governor Bob Riley recalled his visit to Dachau.
“The level of suffering had to be unimaginable… You begin to understand the evil that existed there” he said.
The Alabama Holocaust Commission organized the annual event, held in the Old House Chamber of the State Capitol Building. About 125 attended, but Riley said he wanted to see the room filled for future commemorations.
“It is important that we take this program to another level. It is important that we involve many members of our state government to ensure that the horrific acts of the Holocaust never happen again,” he said.
The commission was established by the Alabama Legislature 10 years ago, but official state commemorations date back to the early 1980s.
The commission was organized “to promote awareness of the events of the Nazi Tyranny, and to provide education, information and assistance to all Alabama citizens.”
Riley presented the annual proclamation to Henry Stern of Opelika, who represented the state’s survivors. Other survivors took part in the candle lighting memorial ceremony.
Leah Hendry, from White Plains High School in Anniston, read “In The End,” one of the winners in a statewide essay competition on the Holocaust. The competition for high school students is sponsored by Jacksonville State University.
Rev. Carl Gebhardt of First Christian Church in Florence gave the invocation and Rabbi Eliot Stevens of Montgomery’s Temple Beth Or gave the benediction.
Cantor Daniel Gale of Birmingham’s Temple Beth-El and Elisha Benjamin of Birmingham, a music major at the University of Alabama, also participated.
Agnes Tenenbaum of Mobile, a survivor of a slave labor camp, said “I am pleased that we survivors were recognized and remembered in this special program today. I have lived in many states, California, Arizona, New York and many others. Alabama has given more recognition to the Holocaust and survivors than any of the other states in which I have lived.”
Stevens said “I find it very gratifying that this community, distant from some of the major centers of Jewish life in North America, has had a number of significant Holocaust observances.”