Chosen to coincide with the anniversary the Warsaw ghetto uprising, Yom HaShoah reminds us of both the atrocities of the Second World War and of the amazing strength and endurance of the human spirit. This year, Asheville’s Congregation Beth HaTephila invites the community to honor Holocaust Commemoration Day with a special presentation featuring guest speaker Michael Good, the son of a survivor and author of the book The Search for Major Plagge – the Nazi who saved Jews.
Instead of focusing the discussion on the acts of genocide that swept through Europe, the commemorative event will concentrate on how one man’s compassion helped save hundreds of Jewish lives. Good became especially fascinated with Holocaust history while traveling to the site of a Nazi established ghetto and labor camp in Vilnius, Lithuania. While in Vilnius, Good heard about a German officer named Major Plagge, whose efforts saved over 250 Jews. The story of the mysterious Nazi Major intrigued Good, inspiring a several-year search to learn all he could about Plagge’s life and history. At the Yom HaShoah event, Good will share stories about his quest for Plagge, which lead him through Europe and ultimately to Darmstadt Germany.
“Where were the good Germans?” asks Lotte Meyerson, who has helped coordinate the commemorative event. “[Good’s] story helps to answer [the] question that I’ve thought about for years. Any evidence of [German] decency is important to know about; and it’s a gripping story.” Working with UNCA’s Center for Diversity Education, Meyerson often visits 6th-grade classrooms in Buncombe County to talk about the Holocaust while telling her family’s story about fleeing from Germany in 1937, when she was 14-years-old.
When talking with students about the importance of Holocaust remembrance, this is what Meyerson says: “The Holocaust was the worst disaster in human history, but it is not the only one. We see these disasters today in Rwanda and in Darfur and it is important for us to recognize and side against wrongdoing. We need to know this history so that it won’t happen again.”
Yom HaShoah service will be held on Sunday, April, 11 at 7 p.m., at Congregation Beth HaTephila, 43 North Liberty St. All are welcome. Info: 253-4911.