July 28, 2009
On visits to San Francisco I have heard memorable speakers at the Jewish Community Center there. One of these is now making headlines; the other will speak in Aspen next week. Both are concerned with preserving history.
Professor Henry Louis Gates, foremost scholar of African-American literature and history whose arrest has enflamed a raw nerve on the national racial divide, spoke about his continuous quest to preserve history by finding documents that enhance the slavery narrative. That narrative’s horrific origin was highlighted by President Obama’s recent visit to the infamous Door of No Return in Ghana where he reflected that, like the Holocaust, the door leading to the slave ships represents the cruelty of which human beings are capable and must never be forgotten.
Preserving the past is the mission of another speaker I heard in San Francisco, Father Patrick Desbois, a resolute French priest who has dedicated his life to documenting a surprisingly little known aspect of the Holocaust, the death by firing squad of 1.5 million Jews in the Ukraine. Father Desbois will be speaking on Aug. 4 at the invitation of the Aspen Jewish Community Center, describing his method of interviewing elderly Ukrainians, who as children and teenagers witnessed the mass shootings, in a race against time while the “Holocaust by Bullets” is still within living memory.
Another witness to Holocaust history will also be speaking in Aspen at the invitation of the Jewish Community Center. On Aug. 19 Leon Leyson will share his childhood memories of working in the factory of Oskar Schindler, who is credited with saving almost 1,200 Jews. To learn more about these two speaker events, go online to http://www.jccaspen.com/ or call 544-3770.
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