Monday, February 12, 2001

Tree ceremony honors child victims of Nazis

By Jennifer Mrozowski
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Holocaust survivor Ela Weissberger grew teary-eyed as she looked over a crowd of more than 200 people — mostly children — at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion on Sunday.

[photo] Holocaust survivor Ela Weissberger (right) greets her friend, Wendy Old of Columbus, after a ceremony Sunday at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion.
(Gary Landers photo)
| ZOOM |
        The children had just dedicated a maple sapling on the institute's lawn. The tiny tree stands in memory to 15,000 children who lived in a Jewish ghetto outside of Prague during World War II.

        The college's Center for Holocaust Studies says only 100 children from the ghetto survived the war.

        Ms. Weissberger was one of them.

        Also surviving is a tree the children of the Theresienstadt ghetto planted in 1943 to honor the Jewish traditional day of tree-planting. The children had bribed a guard to smuggle in a tiny maple sapling, which now stands more than 60 feet tall.

   Children of all religions can buy a tree to be planted in the forest. For information, call 221-1875 ext. 355.
        “Today is one of the happiest days in my life,” Ms. Weissberger told her audience. “I am very glad and surprised at how many children I see. ... A whole generation of children is gone but there is a new generation with us.”

        Jewish children from all around Greater Cincinnati sang songs and read poems during Sunday's ceremony. Cincinnati Opera's 2000 cast of Brundibar — the children's opera Ms. Weissberger performed in Theresienstadt — sang one of the title songs with her.

        “Kids back then had such a hard time and such pain,” said 11-year-old Gordon Shott of Amberley Village. “I think we should know about that.”

        In effort to memorialize the story, The Center for Holocaust and Humanity Education at the college, in cooperation with the Jewish National Fund, is trying to establish a forest in Israel to honor Jewish children who died in the Holocaust.

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