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I.S. 98 reflects on the Holocaust - Event designed to inform youth of ugly past

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A crowd of nearly 150 people gathered at the Bay Academy I.S. 98, 1401 Emmons Avenue, recently for the Holocaust Memorial Committee’s 24th annual ceremony, an enduringly emotional event opening the emotional wounds wrought by the horrors of the Holocaust.

The event took place just a stone’s throw away from Holocaust Memorial Park, the secluded park at the mouth of Sheepshead Bay created in 1985 largely at the behest of the Brooklyn-based Committee.

The park features an eternal flame in memory of the Holocaust’s victims, as well as two tombstones: one for people who perished and one for the cities and towns they came from.

The theme of this year’s ceremony was “Voices of our youth,” reflecting the Committee’s mission to pass on the lessons of the Holocaust to a younger generation as survivors die out.

To this end, the ceremony began with stirring versions of both the American and Israeli national anthem by the mixed chorus of Edward R. Murrow High School, 1600 Avenue L.

The keynote speaker was Dr. Robert Scott Kellner, the subject of the critically acclaimed documentary “My Opposition,” which tells the story of an orphaned American Navy officer (Dr. Kellner) who goes searching for his German grandfather, Friedrich Kellner.

Though originally under the impression his grandfather was a Nazi, Kellner encounters him only to learn the opposite is true: Friedrich Kellner, a justice inspector in the Third Reich, risked his life by steadfastly refused to join the Nazi party and chronicled Nazi atrocities of the Nazis in a secret diary.

In one of the movie’s emotional climaxes, Dr. Kellner vows to use the diary as a means to educate young people of the dangers of fascism and terrorism.

At the ceremony, a poignant reminder of these Nazi atrocities came with the annual candle lighting ceremony: Six candles, each symbolizing one million people who perished in the Holocaust, were lit.

The June 8 ceremony also featured the seventh annual Holocaust Memorial Art, Essay and Poetry Contest for Brooklyn youth, sponsored by Assemblymember Steve Cymbrowitz, a second- generation Holocaust survivor.

The mandate for each entry was that it express the lessons learned from the Holocaust.

There were three winning entries, one each for elementary, middle, and high school:

In the elementary school category, P.S. 195 (131 Irwin Street) won with its “The Holocaust: A Book of Life,” featuring life-size paper cut outs representing a Jewish family.

For middle school, Magen David Yeshiva (2130 McDonald Avenue) took home first prize with “An Anthology of Writings,” a series of personal reflections about the meaning and lessons of the Holocaust.

For the high school division, The Leon M. Goldstein High School for the Sciences (1830 Shore Boulevard) was the victor with “Visions of the Holocaust in Sculpture, Poetry and Art.”

“The contest not only serves as a living memorial to Holocaust survivors, but it gives our young people an opportunity to reflect on the Holocaust and to deepen their understanding as to how its lessons impact their lives today over 60 years later,” Cymbrowitz said.

“We want our young people – Jewish and non-Jewish – to understand that the hatred that fueled the Holocaust unfortunately didn’t end with the liberation of the concentration camps. It exists, in various forms, to this day.”

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