Combat aviators host tribute to Holocaust victims, survivors

Thursday, April 24, 2014 - 10:51pm

For more than 70 years, Holocaust victims and their descendants have shared haunting tales of a hidden war – a war of imprisonment, torture and genocide. And, despite their liberation from a life of inconceivable suffering, the effects of the Holocaust still linger for those who were there. Tattoos etched in hate keep scars of the past on the surface and for many, the sights, sounds and smells of their captivity are a horrific reminder of mankind’s worst atrocities.

When Adolf Hitler surrendered to Allied Forces in 1945, nearly 6 million Jews had been killed. Thankfully, those subjected to the inhumanities of a Nazi regime are anything but forgotten – their names and stories live on through shared remembrance and pursuits of tolerance.

In the United States, a national day of remembrance designated each April as a tribute to victims of the Holocaust. The annual event is observed by many organizations, including the 1st Armored Division, whose Combat Aviation Brigade hosted a Holocaust Remembrance Day April 9 at the Centennial Banquet and Conference Center on East Fort Bliss.

The event offered attendees an interactive and broadening experience including traditional Jewish prayer, a recital of Shoa names – Shoa is the Hebrew translation of Holocaust meaning “catastrophe” – and a lighting of candles to commemorate the lives of Holocaust victims.

Despite its subtle nature, the candle-lighting was a prominent piece of the cultural observance and represented the Jewish tradition of Yahrzeit. With origins deeply rooted in the Talmud, followers of the Jewish faith often light Yarzheit candles as a means to memorialize days of great tragedy or death while reflecting upon its importance.

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” said Myer Lipson, the event’s guest speaker and local El Pasoan. “Stories of the survivors and memorials to the victims are the best evidence of what occurred.”

Born and raised in El Paso, Lipson has lived with the sorrow of his family’s tragic past. He shares that past with others to ensure the crimes committed during the Holocaust are never forgotten.

“Like so many Jews, my parents refused to believe people could be so inhumane to each other merely because of their religion,” said Lipson, whose parents and family were forced from their homes and relocated to the Konvo Ghetto in Lithuania.

For Lipson’s grandparents the Konvo Ghetto would be their fate – gunned down and murdered in the street by Nazis troops. Just a few days later, his older brother and sister were taken … never to be seen again.

During the Nazi’s “Final Solution,” Lipson’s remaining relatives were transported to concentration camps by rail car – his father and uncle to Dachau; mother and aunt to Stuffhoff. Miraculously, all four lives were spared thanks to American liberators in 1945.

By then, though, the costs of Hitler’s ideology of indifference were incalculable – not just for Lipson’s family, but for all who endured its wrath. With no possessions and the loss of their loved ones, Lipson’s parents immigrated to El Paso.

“I tell my very personal family history so people will remember, understand the need for justice and tolerance and spur appropriate reaction to persecution and intolerance,” said Lipson, who also served as the El Paso Holocaust Museum’s first president.

The affliction to Lipson’s family is just one of the many genocide stories that help Soldiers recognize the importance of preserving freedom through action, promoting human dignity and confronting hate wherever it occurs, said Lt. Col. Daniel L. Rice, commander of the 3rd Battalion, 501st Aviation Regiment, 1st Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Armored Division.

“Our military must be prepared to protect and serve all people; to ensure justice no matter where, no matter how different we may be, or what religion we may believe,” said Lipson. 

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