By: Joanie Cox-Henry Contributing Writer
“Bei Mir Bist Du Schon” and other hits from the Big Bang era blasted in the background as nearly 400 Holocaust survivors from Boca Raton, Delray Beach, Boynton Beach, Lake Worth and northern Broward County packed B’nai Torah Congregation for the Semi-Annual Café Europa Luncheon June 4.
“We do this event in June and December,” said Danielle Hartman, president and CEO of Ruth Rales Jewish Family Services, which was also celebrating its 40th anniversary.
Random reunions happen when an emcee announces where villages survivors came from. Tears often flow as some haven’t seen each other in 70 years or are meeting for the first time.
“The average age of our survivors is mid-90’s,” Hartman said. “And Holocaust survivors tend to be more apt to be living at or below poverty level. This event is very important to us. We’re very happy to have 60 volunteers here today celebrating and bringing people together.”
Norman Frajman, 90, president of the Child Survivors/Hidden Children of the Holocaust hopes being at Cafe Europa leaves a legacy for younger generations so history doesn’t repeat itself. Born in Warsaw, Poland, Frajman lost 126 members of his family in the Holocaust.
“We have to leave a better generation for young people,” Frajman said. “I like speaking in Boca, but I like it even more to go to Sebastian, Pahokee and Belle Glade where they have never seen a Jewish person.”
Frajman enjoys Cafe Europa because it allows him to connect with fellow Holocaust survivors. “We are disappearing,” Frajman said. “But when I see faces here, it does my heart good. There are still witnesses to this tragedy and younger generations must learn of these atrocities that occur when hatred toward one another occurs. We must replace hate with love.”
Delray Beach resident Sylvia Richter, 89, survived five concentration camps.
Originally from Czechoslovakia, Richter was 14 when she was taken with her parents and siblings and forced into a ghetto. “They gave me this tattoo when I got to Auschwitz,” Richter said while rolling up her sleeve. “My sisters and I was were chosen by Dr. Mengele. I was forced to lie about my age and say I was 17 instead of 14. A female Nazi officer wiped black soot off her arm and told me it was my mother, father and siblings that she was wiping away and if I didn’t keep lying, this would be me too. As she wiped away those ashes, she wiped away my smile. I never smiled again until 1946.”
Richter continued to endure beatings and torture from the Nazi’s and was forced to chisel human remains from a crematory until her liberation day. “I went on to get married and have a family of my own,” Richter said. “I now look forward to coming to Cafe Europa. It’s important we continue to tell our stories.”