Yom HaShoah Events in the South

Riva Hirsch speaks at Auburn University at Montgomery’s commemoration on April 11.

Temple Emanu-El, the Birmingham Holocaust Education Center, and two other Southern communities, Augusta and Savannah, have partnered to bring Alexandra Senfft to speak.

She will be at Emanu-El on April 25 at 5:45 p.m., presenting “The Long Shadow of the Perpetrators: The Nazi in My Family.”

Her book, “Silence Hurts: A German Family History” won the German Best Biography Award. In it, she details the story of her grandfather, Hanns Ludin, who was executed as a war criminal 70 years ago for his actions while serving as the Third Reich ambassador to Slovakia.

Her book will also be published in Slovakia soon.

Hanns Ludin signed deportation orders for Slovakian Jews, sending them to Auschwitz, while convincing the Slovakian authorities of the necessity of the deportations and providing them with diplomatic cover stories.

Senfft’s uncle, Malte Ludin, produced a film about his father, “2 or 3 Things I Know About Him” in 2005, where he detailed his father’s wartime legacy and his siblings’ persistent denial about it.

One of those siblings was Erika, Senfft’s mother, who was at boarding school at age 14 when she learned that her father had been executed. Hanns Ludin’s widow maintained the family story that he had been innocent, a “victim of his era,” and his crimes were dismissed and never spoken of. When Senfft, who considered her grandfather a “detestable Nazi,” would ask her mother, she would cry, make excuses and indicate this was not a topic for discussion.

Erika killed herself at age 64.

As she tried to discover the truth about her grandfather, Senfft lost relationships with both friends and relatives. But she also gained new and supportive friendships, such as with the visionary Israeli psychology professor and filmmaker Dan Bar-On, who died in 2008.

Like Bar-On, Selfft is deeply involved with dialogue and conciliation. She believes in the words of Rabbi Albert Friedlander that, “It’s not for me to forgive and I cannot forget; but we must live together anyway.”

After completing a Master’s in Middle Eastern Studies, and German and English literature, Senfft became an observer for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine, eventually becoming its spokesperson. Since 1991 she has been an independent journalist for German publications.

She has also published “Strange Enemy, so far: Encounters with Palestinians and Israelis,” and “The Long Shadow of the Perpetrators: Descendants Face their Nazi Family History.”

Birmingham’s community Yom HaShoah commemoration will be on May 2 at 6:30 p.m., at Temple Beth-El. It will feature “Stories Remembered and Retold: The Stories of Deceased Holocaust Survivors As Told By Their Local Descendants.”

Huntsville’s Yom HaShoah presentation will be on May 1 at 6:30 p.m., at The Rock Family Worship Center. James Sedlis of Birmingham will speak about his father, Gabriel Sedlis, who was in the Vilna ghetto but avoided being sent to concentration camps as his grandfather ran the ghetto’s hospital.

Because Gabriel Sedlis spoke German, he was given numerous artistic projects, such as painting portraits of German officers. He then realized his artistic talents could be used for forgery, and made documents to help Jewish families escape the ghetto. He then joined the resistance movement.

Mobile’s community commemoration will be on May 1 at 7 p.m., at Ahavas Chesed. Glen Mutchnick will give the Call to Remembrance in honor of Harry and Kela Zarembo. Student art, poetry and posters will be displayed, and presentations will be made to the contest winners.

The Mobile commemoration is sponsored by the Mobile Christian-Jewish Dialogue and the Gulf Coast Center for Holocaust and Human Rights Education.

The State of Alabama’s annual Holocaust commemoration will be April 30 at 11 a.m. at the Old House Chamber in Montgomery, with Auburn basketball coach Bruce Pearl as the keynote speaker. There will also be a proclamation by Governor Kay Ivey, and a luncheon following. The gathering, the oldest state commemoration in the nation, is coordinated by the Alabama Holocaust Commission.

Montgomery’s community interfaith memorial service will be May 5 at 3:30 p.m. at Temple Beth Or.

On April 11 at 9:30 a.m., the annual commemoration at Auburn University at Montgomery was held, with stories from two Holocaust survivors, Max Herzel and Riva Hirsch of Birmingham.

Pensacola‘s commemoration will be on May 1 at 5:30 p.m. at Pensacola City Hall. Steve Nissim will share his family’s story.

In Alexandria, the annual commemoration will begin on May 6 with a brief service at the Holocaust memorial, at 6:30 p.m. The program will be at 7 p.m. at Emmanuel Baptist Church. Tim Lorsch will present his one-man show, “The Suitcase,” which details the story of his German-Jewish family’s survival.

The annual Baton Rouge commemoration will be held at B’nai Israel on April 28 at 4 p.m. There will be a memorial service and recognition of the 2019 Holocaust essay contest winners.

B’nai Israel in Monroe will have Holocaust Remembrance Shabbat on May 10, with winners of the annual Holocaust Essay and Poetry Contest.

Author Georgia Hunter will be the keynote speaker at this year’s New Orleans Yom Ha’Shoah community-wide memorial program, May 5 at 6:30 p.m. at the Uptown Jewish Community Center.

The annual memorial program remembers and honors local survivors while educating the public about the Holocaust and teaching the importance of tolerance. It is free and open to the community.

During the program, students from the Donald R. Mintz Youth Leadership Mission of the Anti-Defamation League will be recognized, and the 14th Annual Educator of the Year award will be presented to Paul Distler, a social studies teacher at Cabrini High School, for the outstanding work he has done integrating Holocaust education into the curriculum.

A dessert reception will follow the program.

Hunter’s best-selling debut novel, “We Were the Lucky Ones,” is the extraordinary true story of one Jewish family separated at the start of World War II, determined to survive — and to reunite. The book is based upon her relatives’ experiences during the war. It will be available for purchase and signing after the event.

Shreveport’s 36th annual Holocaust remembrance service will be on May 5 at 3 p.m., at the Broadmoor United Methodist Church.

Beth Israel in Gulfport will have a community commemoration on May 2 at 6:30 p.m. Special guest speaker is Dara Bramson, formerly with the Museum of Jewish Heritage/Auschwitz Jewish Center.

Beth Israel in Jackson will hold a Holocaust memorial service on May 1 at 6:30 p.m., with guest speaker Dan Puckett of Troy University. Puckett chairs the Alabama Holocaust Commission, is past president of the Southern Jewish Historical Society and is author of “In the Shadow of Hitler: Alabama Jews, the Second World War, and the Holocaust.”