SAN DIEGO — Hundreds gathered Sunday at the Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center in La Jolla for an event to remember the six million lives killed during the Holocaust, as well as celebrate how the survivors helped shape San Diego.
“They put a number inside of us, only I don’t look at it,” a Holocaust survivor, Ben Midler, said to FOX 5. “If it wasn’t for that I don’t live in the past. I live in the future and I’m a positive man.”
At the age of 95, Midler can still recount the haunting memories from his youth in Poland.
“My uncle decided to built a hiding place,” Midler said. “We tried to be safe and, thank God, we lived through it.”
Sunday’s event served as an important day of remembrance, according to organizers, and a chance to celebrate 70 years of survival — honoring each unique survival story that has to be told.
“We have about 300 survivors living in San Diego from different communities with different stories,” Matt Goldberg with the Jewish Federation of San Diego said. “Some came here when they arrived in the 50s.”
The event featured performances, as well as a candle lighting ceremony that paid tribute to the 13 Holocaust survivors who passed in the past year and the contributions they made to San Diego.
“It’s rare to tell a happy Holocaust story. It’s the worst thing to happen to humanity,” Goldberg added. “We know that and understand it, but we celebrate what the survivors did — living through what they went through, building businesses, building families.”
The event also put a light on a new art gallery filled with historical photographs showcasing how survivors created lives in areas like North Park and the South Bay.
“We should never forget what happened in the Holocaust and speak up about it, so it will never happen again,” added Midler.
The exhibit will remain open until May 24 at the Gotthelf Art Gallery in the Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center.