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HOLOCAUST: 'LEST WE FORGET' ETCH HISTORY IN MIND, SURVIVORS SAY.

Byline: Josh Kleinbaum Staff Writer

Four weeks before the British Army liberated the Bergen-Belson concentration camp, Nazi soldiers handed a towel to Miriam Bell.

For the 15-year-old Jew, the towel meant one thing: She was about to be sent to the gas chamber.

But the girl survived the Nazi selection, although the memory of that day still haunts her 60 years later - a memory she described Thursday as more than 3,000 people gathered at Pan Pacific Park for Holocaust Remembrance Day.

``We should have (ceremonies) for as long as life goes on,'' said Bell, now 74 and living in Los Angeles. ``It can never be forgotten. That is very important.''

Religious and community leaders paid tribute to the 6 million Jews who died at the hands of the Nazis during World War II. And with the generation of survivors dwindling, they focused on the importance of passing on the lessons of the Holocaust to children.

``I'm one of the younger survivors at 77,'' said Jona Goldrich, chairman of the Los Angeles Holocaust Monument, who fled Nazi-occupied Poland at age 14.

``I'm concerned that in another 10 or 15 years, there will be no Holocaust survivors. In high school, they teach what happened 2,000 years ago, but they don't teach what happened 60 years ago. Next time, it might not happen to the Jews. It might happen to another minority.''

With a light rain falling - ``God's tears for the murdered Jews,'' state Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi said - the audience gathered in a large blue-and-white tent surrounded by blue-and-white Israeli flags. Many in the audience wore a message, 'Lest we forget,' imprinted on their hats, and several speakers echoed that theme in their remarks.

``There will always be hope,'' said Rabbi Mark Borovitz of Beit T'Shuvah. ``We will take up the challenge and the commitment to make our world better, so that what ended 60 years ago will never - will never, will never - happen again.''

The speakers included Mayor James Hahn, who discussed the resurgence of anti-Semitism in the past few years.

City Councilman Antonio Villaraigosa, who is challenging Hahn in the May 17 election, was not listed on the program but spoke on behalf of the City Council, urging the thousands of students in the crowd to learn about the strength and the courage of Holocaust survivors.

Garamendi said the characteristics and emotions pervasive in Germany in the 1930s - intolerance, ignorance, blaming and hating - are thriving around the globe today, even in the United States.

``Jihads, pogroms, ethnic 'cleansings' and genocides continue to plague the human race,'' Garamendi said. ``All too often, that plague is nurtured for political expediency.''

Garamendi compared the Nazi Brownshirts and members of the Minuteman movement who patrolled the Arizona-Mexico border last month, saying they both targeted minorities. Some in the audience took strong issue with that comparison.

``Thoughtful immigration policy is not promoted by comparing citizen Minutemen to Nazis,'' said Larry Greenfield, director of the Southern California Republican Jewish Coalition. ``I'm concerned by the easy comparison to the vicious Nazi Brownshirts.''

Earlier in the day, Hahn joined Garamendi and Jewish community leaders to rekindle the Flame of Remembrance at the Museum of Tolerance during a tribute to the Allied soldiers who liberated 27 European nations.

A new exhibit, ``Liberation! Revealing the Unspeakable,'' was opened with more than 200 photographs, taken by American GIs and others, of Nazi death and labor camps.

In one photo, five survivors hail liberators at Bergen-Belson.

``Look at these faces. In one of my favorite (photos), the happiness, the relief - they've seen their savior,'' said Eric Saul, curator of the exhibit. ``This is the crime of the century and the millennium.''

Ron Frydman of Sherman Oaks, former principal of Robert Frost Middle School, was at Auschwitz for the commemoration of Yom Hashoah - Hebrew for ``day of catastrophe.''

Frydman, who instructs area schoolteachers about the Holocaust for the Anti-Defamation League, said preventing another Holocaust starts at home.

``It's man's inhumanity to man, the apex of prejudice and hate,'' Frydman, 64, said before he left last week for Poland.

``It starts at the local level, by kids saying hateful things to others - you're fat, you're ugly, you're stupid - or disparaging remarks about racial ethnicity. If it's not controlled, if it's not stopped, look what can happen when you dehumanize people.

``It's easy to go to the next step, which is to exterminate people.''

Staff Writer Dana Bartholomew contributed to this report.

Josh Kleinbaum, (818) 713-3669

josh.kleinbaum(at)dailynews.com

IF YOU GO

The March of Gratitude, celebrating the 60th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day, will begin at 10 a.m. Sunday at Pico Boulevard and Century Park East. A brief program will follow at the Museum of Tolerance.

CAPTION(S):

3 photos, box

Photo:

(1 -- color) A march begins Thursday in Oswiecim, Poland, where Nazis built the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp.

Janek Skarzynski/AFP/Getty Images

(2) Holocaust survivor Ester Pulvermacher, 82, in a white hat, lights a Remembrance Day candle Thursday in Los Angeles.

(3) Karl, 80, and Max Wozniak, 78, look at the L.A. Holocaust Monument. In youth, the brothers fled Nazi-occupied Poland.

John McCoy/Staff Photographer

Box:

IF YOU GO (see text)
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:May 6, 2005
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