Speaker’s story of Holocaust haunts, inspires

At the annual Holocaust Memorial Service held Tuesday night at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Marquette, Martin Lowenberg was the featured speaker in recognition of Yom HaShoah, also known as Holocaust Remembrance Day, which occurs on the 27th day of the Jewish month of Nissan.

Lowenberg was just 5 years old when Adolf Hilter came to power in Germany. Even though his family tried to flee, most of them were eventually captured by the Nazis. Lowenberg survived as a slave laborer in the concentration camps, but his family, aside from his sister, Eva, who had also been captured, perished at Auschwitz.

Since then, Lowenberg, 90, has spent most of his life speaking to different communities and schools about the Holocaust, calling the presentation “Hate Hurts but Love Heals.”

“When I came over to this country in 1946 after being liberated from six different concentration camps, people used to say, ‘He’s a refugee,’ and for the longest time I was a ‘refugee.’ Then I became a ‘newcomer,'” he said at the memorial service. “It took many, many years until people realized what a Holocaust survivor really means and is.”

On Dec. 8, 1941, Lowenberg and his family were deported to Latvia’s Riga Ghetto after four days and nights of traveling in a filled boxcar with little clothing and no food.

“That was the beginning of the suffering,” he said. “We had to walk for five miles when we arrived in deep snow. All we had were shoes and our socks (and) they got wet and our feet were frozen. Imagine my two little twin brothers, they were 6 years old, and those little children were crying and so many other children were crying. I was not even a refugee then, believe me. We were victims, we were victims of our religion.”

When his family arrived at the Riga Ghetto, “the food that was already there was left by natives from Latvia, who had been, only days before, taken away to a place in the forest” and slaughtered, he said.

“They killed 3,000 Latvian Jewish people right there with machine guns. Yes, those were the times. Who could ever remember? Who could ever forget?” Lowenberg continued. “People told us, ‘Because of you we had to make room.’ We didn’t ask them for that.”

Saying that Lowenberg’s words are both haunting and inspiring all at once seems to sell them short. Just like Lowenberg, we must all do our part to ensure this story continues to be told, and in doing so, honor the victims of one of the world’s greatest tragedies.

We were very moved by this man’s words and his experience. There is a lot to be learned from this, even after all this time.

“Sometimes we think of how times are bad, how cold it is, or how little food we have, or what a terrible day I had at the office, or what a terrible day I had at the factory, or what a terrible day we have up here because there’s so much snow — no comparison,” he said. “We should be glad we are here. We should be glad we’re in this country — the land of the free and the home of the brave, and it will always be like that. It must always be like that.”

Mining Journal (Marquette)