Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Remembering Holocaust victims

Their lives, and how they died, will never be forgotten

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Miron Blumental never knew his older half-brother. This brother, named Ariel, was 31/2 years old when he was murdered by the Nazis in his Galician hometown at 11:40 on the morning of June 7, 1943. Miron was not born until many years later, remarkably, at 11:40 on the morning of June 7 -- the same date and the same time his brother was shot and killed.

Ariel's remains are interred in the Jewish cemetery in Warsaw. His name is being engraved on a memorial in Winnipeg.

The Holocaust Monument Project was unveiled in 1990. Erected on the grounds of the provincial legislature, the memorial gave Manitoba Jews the opportunity to formally remember their loved ones killed in the Holocaust by having their names etched in stone.

Three-thousand names were initially engraved on the monument and another 56 were inscribed in 1997. This fall, about 50 more are being added to the cenotaph. In addition to his brother's name, Blumental has arranged for the names of his uncle, two aunts and three grandparents to be engraved.

"I don't know of any other memorials like this outside of Israel," says Blumental, who sits on the Holocaust Awareness Committee that oversees the project. "What is wonderful about this monument is that it is unique, very welcoming and accepting and on government land. It is an official monument."

Most of the individuals submitting names to the memorial this time around are, like Blumental, relative newcomers to Winnipeg. Blumental, who emigrated from England with his family about 11/2 years ago, is one of about 4,000 immigrants who have joined the Winnipeg Jewish community in the last decade.

Bella Shatokhin came to Winnipeg from Israel via Belarus in 2005. She has submitted five names to the memorial project, including those of her grandparents and an aunt, all of whom disappeared in 1941.

"I want their names to be remembered. I want their names to live forever," Shatokhin says. "They went through so much during the war; they either disappeared and were never heard of again, or they died trying to fight the Nazis. If I do not do this, they will be forever forgotten."

Gabor Vamos has also arranged for the names of his maternal grandparents and uncle to be inscribed on the cenotaph. They were among 54 of his family members who were rounded up in Hungary in 1944 and sent to Auschwitz.

"When the Winnipeg planners of the original memorial solicited names to be inscribed, I was travelling around the world and not aware of the opportunity to add my relatives' names," Vamos explains. "I am very pleased that this chance to add names to the memorial will allow my three sons and their families to acknowledge our personal loss."

"The Holocaust should always be remembered," adds Shatokhin. "Everyone should know of the atrocities that occurred."

Given the nature of these atrocities, most Holocaust victims were not properly buried and their graves, if they exist at all, were not properly marked. Entire families and entire towns were wiped out, leaving no one to bear witness and no one to remember them.

Blumental perhaps knows better than most the circumstances surrounding the murder of his relatives, mainly because his father, renowned historian Nachmun Blumental, devoted his life to memorializing their's.

"My dad came back from Siberia and everything was gone. All of his family, his wife and son," says Blumental.

"His house was still standing but there was no trace of Jews in town at all, and they had been one-third of the population."

After the war, Blumental's father wrote several books about the Holocaust and was a founder of the Jewish Historical Institute of Warsaw.

"His memorial," his son says, "was to make sure the facts are there and that people remember."

Here in Winnipeg, Blumental is now carrying on his father's legacy. By serving on the Holocaust Awareness Committee and by inscribing his relatives' names on the local Holocaust memorial, he is ensuring their lives and the way in which they died will not be forgotten.

schisvin@hotmail.com

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 3, 2012 J13

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