Holocaust survivor Ben Klein reminded participants in the seventh Daffodil Dash of a different kind of trauma suffered during and after the Holocaust: that of young children who were saved by being hidden with Christian families but in the process forget who they were.
Klein was the featured speaker during the closing ceremony of the race, held on a cold, rainy Sunday morning, March 25, at Liane Levetan Park at Brook Run.
More than 420 people signed up for the dash. About 200 people actually ran the 5K, while others walked or ran a 1-mile course or cheered on friends and family.
The Am Yisrael Chai event raises awareness and money for Holocaust education and supports Kids for Kids, Raising South Sudan and Agahozo Shalom, organizations helping children and families in remote villages in Darfur, South Sudan and Rwanda. The dash also supports the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta‘s Holocaust Survivor Support Fund and boosts the Daffodil Project, which is working to plant 1.5 million daffodils around the world in memory of the 1.5 million Jewish children killed in the Holocaust.
“We are very grateful to everyone who came out despite the cold rainy weather to support the Daffodil Dash, and we look forward to seeing everyone at the race again next spring,” Am Yisrael Chai President Andrea Videlefsky said.
The Marist School, always a big supporter the run, was the top team with more than 80 registered participants and nearly $3,500 raised.
The interfaith aspect of having a Catholic school raise the most money fit with Klein’s story of being sheltered from the Nazis by a Christian family.
Born in Holland in 1940, Klein was placed with the family when he was 2½ in March 1943, by which time his father had already been killed by the Nazis.
“I became part of that family” as the seventh child, Klein said. “It was a wonderful family.”
So it was tough for him when a woman he didn’t recognize showed up in mid-1945 after the war ended and said, “Hello, I’m your mother.”
On his fifth birthday in July 1945, he was forced to go back to his mother and two sisters so they could suffer together the next two years.
“Things in Holland were unbelievably difficult. Everything was on rations. There were shortages of everything,” Klein said.
But the family pulled together and immigrated to the United States in 1952.
Klein is active in the Daffodil Project, whose daffodil plantings and related informational signs are “wonderful reminders that it really happened,” he said.
Videlefsky thanked Klein for “being here in this crazy weather, doing the 1-mile walk.”
Matthew Borenstein won the 5K in a time of 21:12, and Aubrey Bachtel was the female winner in 24:16. The masters winners were Charles Gerrick and Danielle Bodden.
The park was in full bloom for the race. Videlefsky said volunteers planted 20,000 of the flowers in the park in October, November and January with the help of Levetan and support of the city of Dunwoody, and they were out at their peak March 25.