Coinciding with the anniversary of the Warsaw ghetto uprising, Yom HaShoah —Holocaust Remembrance Day — reminds us of both the atrocities of World War II and the amazing strength and endurance of the human spirit. This year, Asheville's Jewish community will host 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 event will highlight how one man's compassion helped save hundreds of Jewish lives. Good became fascinated with Holocaust history while traveling to Vilnius, Lithuania, the site of a ghetto and labor camp established by the Nazis. While there, he heard about Major Plagge, a German officer whose efforts saved more than 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 led him through Europe and ultimately to Darmstadt, Germany.
"Where were the good Germans?" asks Lotte Meyerson, who's 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 sixth-grade classrooms in Buncombe County to talk about the Holocaust, telling how her family fled Germany in 1937, when she was 14.
"The Holocaust," Meyerson tells students, "was the worst disaster humans have inflicted on each other in 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 Sunday, April 11, at 7 p.m. at Congregation Beth HaTephila, 43 North Liberty St. in Asheville. All are welcome. Info: 253-4911.