The Lancers of 2nd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division hosted Joint Base Lewis-McChord’s Holocaust Remembrance Day, a day honoring 6 million Jewish victims who died in the Holocaust of World War II at the Lewis North Chapel April 12.
According to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the day, known as Yom Hashoah, in Hebrew, marks the anniversary of the start of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising April 19, 1943.
Hundreds of Soldiers, Airmen and civilians from JBLM attended the event to remember and reflect on the tragedy that occurred during the Holocaust and honoring the courage of individuals who stood against persecution and tyranny.
The guest speaker for the event, Arik Cohen, grandson of four Holocaust survivors, told the unique story of how all four of his grandparents survived the horrors of the Holocaust.
Cohen spoke about how a series of choices led up to how his grandparents survived.
Cohen recounted the story of his maternal grandparents, Arye Schneider and Masha Klein, who while in Lithuania avoided the mass murder of the Jewish population. They were exploited by greed and opportunism from their non-Jewish neighbors.
Their harrowing tale ended in the eventual escape from the Shavli ghetto and eight months of hiding until the Russian Army annexed Lithuania from the Nazis in July 1944.
Cohen’s paternal grandparents, Emil Cohen and Eva Hirsch, both from Romania, were forced to live in the Oradea ghetto along with 35,000 other Jews. A few months later, they were sent to the German concentration camp, Auschwitz.
“Eva was sent to Stutthof labor camp where she worked until forced on a death march in February 1945,” Cohen said. “After walking for six weeks, Eva was too tired to continue and slipped away into a barn and hid.”
Cohen said later that day she was liberated by the Russian Army.
As for Cohen’s grandfather Emil, he was in Auschwitz and then sent to Buchenwald and remained there until the 21,000 prisoners were liberated by the Soldiers assigned to the U.S. Army’s 6th Armored Division.
“After the war,” Cohen said, “Emil bicycled all the way back to Oradea from Buchenwald and miraculously reunited with Eva.”
Amazingly both couples immigrated to Israel and ended up living in the small beach town of Nahariya after World War II and two of their children, Cohen’s parents, met and married.
A self-professed family historian, Cohen began looking at the history to figure out the odds of each person surviving.
“What are the odds that all four of my grandparents survived the Holocaust?” Cohen asked the crowd.
“One in 963,379,200,” Cohen said. “More than four times the odds of winning the Mega Million Lottery.”
Colonel Jay Miseli, 2nd Bde., 2nd Inf. Div., thanked Cohen for sharing his grandparents’ story and for providing a personal perspective to one of the darkest chapters in human history.
“It is our duty to remember the past, honor the courage of those who fought these atrocities and remain vigilant to ensure they never happen again,” Miseli said. “The events that took place during the Holocaust remind us of the results of unchecked hatred and bigotry.”