A million and a half Jewish children lost their lives in the Holocaust, Fred Gross, who was only 3 when Germany invaded Belgium, told those in attendance Monday evening at The State Theater during A Night of Remembrance and Understanding.
“I am a child of the Holocaust,” he said. “(Children) were the first to die. The moment they got off the train, they were taken away from their mothers and fathers never to be seen again. ... A million and a half Jewish children who should be up here with me today talking to you.”
Gross is the father of four sons and has five grandchildren.
“Just imagine how many more there should have been. What a loss,” he said. “Let’s remember them not as victims, but let us remember them as living people who suffered and who have unimaginably perished.”
Gross, although not unscathed, escaped that fate thanks to luck and the morality and goodwill of those willing to help his family along its dangerous journey to safety.
Gross shared with those in attendance the route his family took to escape the Nazi invasion. He recalled a time when a farmer allowed his family to stay in his barn and another time his mother threw him into a ditch and covered him with her body to protect him.
“Luckily, we were all safe. It was a miracle,” he said. “We were lucky every step of the way.”
Gross said it’s thanks to those brave and kind people along the way that his family made it.
“I am so thankful to those people. Without their help, I would not be here,” he said.
Gross, 82, said there needs to be more love and kindness in the world.
“There is too much hatred going on. It is unbelievable,” he said. “I tell that to young people, and I say to them, ‘You are the ones that we depend on to make this a better life for all of us.’ I just hope that happens.”
Teachers from local schools, Travis Thompson of Elizabethtown High School and Alison Langley of North Hardin High School, were asked at the event why it’s important to teach about the Holocaust to students.
Thompson said part of the reason it’s important is to ensure something like it never happens again.
“We want to communicate that to our students as best as we possibly can,” he said. “A quote that comes to mind ... is ‘The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.’”
Monday’s event accompanied Never Again: Murals of the Holocaust, which is on exhibit at Elizabethtown Community and Technical College’s Morrison Gallery in the James S. Owen Building. The exhibit is free and open to the public from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday until April 5.
The murals were brought to Elizabethtown through the Central Kentucky Community Foundation’s Marvin and Joyce Benjamin Fund. The exhibit also was made possible by The Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts and the Jewish Heritage Fund for Excellence.
For information about the exhibit, go to ckcf4people.org or call 270-737-8393.