Ceremony in Bass River pays tribute to Holocaust victims
BASS RIVER – We must learn from the past.
That was the sentiment echoed by the 100 people who braved chilly temperatures Sunday to attend an hour-long ceremony at veteran’s Memorial Park in Bass River to honour the memory of the six million Jews killed during the Holocaust.
“I would say that’s the heart of the people who came here tonight,” said Economy resident Peg Noseworthy. “They care deeply or I don’t think they would have been here.”
The event was especially meaningful for Truro residents Elizabeth Shien, her daughter Mariah Martin-Shein and Michele Rigby, who lost family members in one of the world’s most vicious crimes against humanity.
“If we don’t remember it will just happen again,” said Rigby, a 55-year-old Truro resident. “I think everybody deserves to be remembered.”
A candle with the name of a Holocaust victim was given to each person who attended and at the conclusion of the ceremony they were placed by a large star of David.
The Holocaust was born from anti-semitism against European Jews, which rose greatly as the Nazi Party, led by Adolf Hitler, took power in Germany in 1933. Although many Jews fled Germany in the years leading up to the Second World War, many were eventually captured as Nazi occupation spread across Europe and placed in one of 1,500 concentration or extermination camps. The death toll accounted for about two thirds of the Jewish population in Europe before the start of the war.
“I think it’s important for all the generations to come to remember that people were killed for the simple reason they were Jewish,” said Shein, whose father left his native Ukrainian village of Novaya Ushitsa in 1929 because of increasing anti-semitism. He came to Canada.
Rigby’s father escaped Berlin during Kristallnacht – the night of broken glass – on Nov. 7, 1938, when Jews were publicly attacked and their property vandalized, including 7,000 Jewish shops and 1,668 synagogues. Just 17 and alone, he made his way on foot to Holland and eventually escaped to Palestine. Her mother also fled to Palestine.
Rigby said the subjection to such hatred still scars her family members today.
“My mother is afraid of anyone in uniform,” she said. “One of my distant cousins is always fearful her passport won’t be renewed because that was one thing the Germans initially did.”
Shein also had three family members who were part of 3,222 people stripped naked, shot and buried in mass graves outside of Novaya Ushitsa. Shein and her daughter visited the site last year and took along a plaque identical to one they dedicated at Sunday’s Bass River ceremony which they presented to the site’s 85-year-old keeper named Isaac Itken, the lone living survivor of the ‘Holocaust by Bullets.’
Martin-Shein, 19, said she’s glad she made the trip with her mother.
“The Holocaust by Bullets wasn’t something we learned about in school,” she said. “So just going there and seeing what happened made it real, it actually happened to people related to me. It was almost too much to think of it all…one day they were all killed.”
In spite of a gloomy forecast, Shein said she felt there would be a strong turnout for Sunday’s ceremony, and she wasn’t disappointed.
“In past years, I know we’ve gotten quite a few people so I was quite pleased at the turnout,” she said.
“I think for people to come on a Sunday night when the weather was horrible, it fills my spirit. It’s wonderful.”