Community members remember the Holocaust one step at a time for fifth annual “March of Remembrance”
Around 30 Whatcom County residents marched from Fred Meyer on Lakeway Drive to City Hall as a way to remember the Holocaust in Bellingham’s fifth “March of Remembrance” on Sunday, April 19.
The march took place in honor of Yom HaShoah, or Holocaust Remembrance Day, on Thursday, April 16.
Holocaust Remembrance Day is observed worldwide, and one way to remember those affected by the Holocaust by is through a march of remembrance, local event organizer Dave Hiller said.
Western freshman Julianna Jackson said that the day is an important reminder to those who were affected by the holocaust, but that it was also an important opportunity to share that history with those who are unaware of the day’s significance.
“I was outside on this past day lighting candles in remembrance of the victims, and saying a prayer and crying. My roommate and my suitemate had no idea what day it was,” she said. “They had no idea about the significance of the day.”
Jackson also said it is important to retell history and address residual hate, as the holocaust taught the Jewish people that it is not enough to simply ignore hatred. She believes that if they don’t address hatred, people may take that as a sign of weakness.
“When I see Jewish people speak out about a hate crime people say ‘It’s not that big of a deal. Who cares if people call you these words?’” she said. “If we don’t do anything about that one attack, if we stay complacent, we are showing that we aren’t going to do anything if they step it up, if they start attacking a group of people.”
Hiller addressed attendees in a speech on the front steps of City Hall.
“This year, to be alive in the Jewish Holocaust, you would have to be at least 70. These people who have been eyewitnesses are passing away,” he said.
Hiller said that it was important to make sure that, as those with firsthand accounts of the Holocaust and World War II pass away, the history of that era is preserved so that nothing like it can ever happen again.
Hiller’s speech was followed by the Israel National Anthem, which was sung by Leah Sauter.
Some people in attendance also had family who were affected by the World War II and the Holocaust.
Attendee Mike Williams said his father, who flew 13 missions in a Lockheed P-38 Lightning fighter aircraft in the war, shot down two German Messerschmitts and an Italian fighter aircraft before his plane malfunctioned, forcing him to parachute into the Alps where he was captured by German soldiers.
“He spent 13 months in a German prisoner-of-war camp. When the camp was liberated at the end of the war, he and a friend commandeered German vehicles,” he said. “They would drive from town to town in Germany and demand the villagers bring them all the wine and the radios, and they would party until the wine was gone.”
His father and his friend then encountered a man in a striped suit who turned out to be an escapee from a nearby German death camp. Shortly after finding and feeding the escapee, they were all rescued by the U.S. Army.
Ferndale resident Ragnar Gustafson also recalled when the Germans came to Norway.
“I was only 3 years old. We were laying in the street when two big German horses and two German guys kind of rode over us. One bit my mom’s arm and swung her back and forth, and threw her down in the gutter,” he said. “I’ll never forget.”
Gustafson’s family sold everything and moved outside of Oslo, Norway where they stayed for five years. His father became a well-known painter and painted to make money.
“When the farmers butchered a cow, we would sneak on our stomachs into the farm and get the blood. My mom would make blood pudding and blood bread,” he said. “But we survived, you know? I remember it very well.”
People all around the world take part in Holocaust Remembrance Day, from the U.S. to Germany to Israel.