The Georgia Commission on the Holocaust changed location but kept the same spirit of respect and remembrance at its annual commemoration of the Shoah on Friday, April 28.

About a dozen members of Georgia’s consular corps, at least 11 Holocaust survivors, and one of the U.S. soldiers who liberated Dachau, Hilbert Margol, attended the Days of Remembrance ceremony, whose theme this year was “Choosing to Act: Resistance During the Holocaust.”

Karen Daniel (center), accompanied by Georgia Commission on the Holocaust board member Liz Price, struggles with emotions while Irish Consul General Shane Stephens tells the story of her survivor mother, Aaltje de Vries Schappell.

“Their choices show how each person makes a difference,” commission Executive Director Sally Levine said of those who resisted the Nazis, from the Warsaw Ghetto fighters, to the Danish fishermen who smuggled Jews to safety in Sweden, to the Quakers and Unitarians who brought 1,000 Jewish refugee children to America. “Their courage sets an example for us all.”

While many people chose to cooperate or to do nothing while the Nazis terrorized Europe from 1933 to 1945, a few decided to resist in whatever ways they could, Levine said.

“Some people took up weapons. Some resisted spiritually by continuing to follow religious laws and traditions. Some resisted by preserving arts and culture and education. Some documented the crimes of the Nazis by keeping diaries or taking photographs, and others provided aid and rescue at great risk to themselves and their loved ones,” she said. “And for some, attempting to survive amidst the hopelessness and brutality of the situation was their personal act of resistance.”

The ceremony lighting six candles in memory of the 6 million slain Jews, always the highlight of the Days of Remembrance, showcased people who resisted by surviving and having children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren:

  • Hungarian survivors George and Eva Varnai, represented by their daughter, Ambassador Judith Varnai Shorer, Israel’s consul general to the Southeast.
  • Hungarian survivor Robert Ratonyi.
  • Dutch survivor Aaltje “Alice” de Vries Schappell, represented by her daughter, Karen Daniel, who didn’t learn of her mother’s survival story or her Jewishness until after she died of leukemia at age 49.
  • French survivor Jacqueline Garascia Maffi, whose daughter, Mariella Crea, couldn’t be there. She was represented instead by Nigerian Consul General Kayode Laro, accompanied by survivor Ben Walker.
  • Belgian survivor Barry Seidel, who broke from script momentarily to interject, “I would like to honor the memory of my father, Max Leopold Seidel.”
  • A trio of Belgian survivors, sisters Suzy Tibor and Regine Rosenfelder and their cousin Lucy Carson.

The commission held the ceremony in its hometown at Heritage Sandy Springs instead of the state Capitol because of traffic and security concerns in Atlanta related to President Donald Trump’s speech at the Georgia World Congress Center to the National Rifle Association.

But attendance was as strong as ever, and a packed room saw Georgia Bureau of Investigation Director Vernon Keenan receive the commission’s Humanitarian Award (from Georgia International Law Enforcement Exchange Director Robbie Friedmann, himself the son of survivors) and art teacher Kathleen King of General Ray Davis Middle School in Stockbridge get the Distinguished Educator honor (from Georgia School Superintendent Richard Woods).

The commission also recognized the winners of its annual Creative Arts Student Contest, whose work can be seen at holocaust.georgia.gov. At the middle school level, Margaret Hwang of General Ray Davis Middle School was first, Mincey Jones of Dalton Middle School was second, and Abigail Liu of Dalton Middle was third. For high schools, Natasha Ramaswamy of Lambert High School was first, Stephanie Tian of Lambert High was second, and Wooju Yim of Walton High School was third.

Visit www.atlantajewishtimes.com for more photos of the ceremony.