EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP — Cyla Kowenski stood in Rodef Sholom Cemetery, looking at the gravestone that marked the burial site of her husband, Joel.
Etched into the marble is the phrase, “Holocaust Survivors Never Forget.”
Kowenski remembers much of what she went through during the Holocaust. The Atlantic City resident admits it is something she does not talk about, but that changed for a few minutes Sunday during an annual remembrance ceremony in the cemetery’s Holocaust survivors section.
Kowenski recalled being in Vilnius, now the capital of Lithuania, when the Germans arrived in September 1941. German troops went door-to-door looking for Jewish men, she said. The Germans dragged men out into the street, while their women screamed, she said.
“We were sitting with our hands over our ears,” she said of friends gathered in her home.
Kowenski ended her story, too upset to continue.
Kowenski was one of about 50 people who gathered at the cemetery for Mitzvah Zecher Avot Cemetery Service. The event was sponsored by the Sara and Sam Schoffer Holocaust Resource Center at The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey.
The Holocaust survivors who gathered for the service were elderly. Their numbers, event organizers say, are getting smaller each year.
“With the passing of time, more and more of our survivors leave us physically,” said Rabbi Aaron Krauss, who presided over the ceremony. “The Holocaust is fading into history.”
Even small ceremonies such the one held Sunday are important, said Leo Schoffer, a member of Stockton’s board of trustees and the son of Holocaust survirors Sam and Sara Schoffer.
“This service is only conducted in a handful of communities,” Schoffer said. “We feel that it is important because it was the survivors who helped to move Holocaust education and awareness into the forefront of our consciousness.”
However, Krauss said there are indications that the memory of the Holocaust will not die. More Jewish museums are opening not just across the United States, but in places such as Moscow, Warsaw and Casablanca, he said.
“Even after we are gone, there will be people who remember us,” he said.
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