By Deborah Schechter
The deportation of the Jews of Hungary to the death camps of Auschwitz-Birkenau commenced in May 1944. Within a short period of 54 days, the Germans deported 434,204 Hungarian Jews in a total of 147 trains. Seven decades later, Project Witness is in the midst of a comprehensive, multifaceted 70th Anniversary Hungarian Memorial Project designed to memorialize this tragic epoch in Holocaust history.
During the Nine Days, Project Witness will offer a special series of events highlighted by the screening of the new, one-of-a-kind Project Witness documentary film, In One Split Second, in a variety of locations. This much anticipated 60-minute film accurately portrays the flourishing pre-war Hungarian Jewish world, the ensuing devastating destruction, the crisis of leadership that occurred, the spiritual heights to which our Torah leaders rose, and the inspiring rebirth and rebuilding of Yiddishkeit around the world in our time.
The premiere of In One Split Second will take place on Monday evening, July 28, at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Battery Park City. Holocaust survivors, dignitaries, elected officials, and Jewish communal leaders are expected to attend this exclusive event.
Malcolm Hoenlein, the executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, will deliver opening remarks. The guest speaker will be Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, the former chief rabbi of Israel and currently chief rabbi of Tel Aviv, the youngest survivor of the Buchenwald concentration camp, who was eight years old when he was liberated.
The Keil Maleh prayer memorializing the dead will be chanted by Cantor Kraus, a nonagenarian who was a cantor in Hungary before the war, survived several concentration camps due to his melodious voice, and currently resides in Ottawa, Canada.
On Tuesday, July 29, the film will be presented in Flatbush at the Veretzky Hall at 7:30 in the evening. At this event, Mrs. Ruth Lichtenstein, director of Project Witness and the inspiration behind the new film, will present interesting background and provide the audience with a deeper understanding of the conditions that prevailed in Hungary at that time. In addition, a message of hope and faith, delivered personally by a survivor, will be pivotal to the impact of the film.
On Wednesday, July 30, Project Witness will travel upstate to the Catskill region to present two programs—one for teen campers and one for summer residents. Both events will take place at the Monticello High School at 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. respectively.
At the teen campers’ program, an English version of the Yiddish slideshow that captivated several hundred Yiddish speaking high school seniors will be presented. At the evening event, In One Split Second will be the featured highlight.
On Sunday evening, August 3, Congregation Knesseth Israel, The White Shul in Far Rockaway under the spiritual leadership of Rabbi Eytan Feiner, will host Project Witness at its first-ever event in the Five Towns. In One Split Second will once again be the highlight of the evening, accompanied by a presentation by Mrs. Ruth Lichtenstein, director of Project Witness.
These upcoming events are the culmination of a several-month-long initiative that has been dedicated to memorializing Hungarian Jewry.
It is suggested that those who are interested in learning more about the topic of the history of the Hungarian Jewish community reserve the week of July 28 for an experience that will not soon be forgotten.
By attending one or more of the planned events, reading the richly informative publication that highlights this tragic era, and viewing either of the two visual presentations, you will demonstrate that we, the children and grandchildren of the last witnesses to the worst churban in recent times, are paying homage to the quiet heroism and the deep dedication to faith that kept the flame of our Torah and our nation alive.
The more we choose to remember, the more the generations who follow us will do the same. For further information about these events, please contact Project Witness at 800-WITNESS or firstname.lastname@example.org. v