Newark's 28th Annual Holocaust Remeberance

Wednesday, 06 May 2015 21:16 Local Talk News Editor



 Mayor Ras J. Baraka members of the Newark Municipal Council, the Berger Organization, and the Newark Holocaust Remembrance Committee hosted the City of Newark's 28th Annual Holocaust Remembrance at the Robert Treat Hotel, located at 50 Park Place, in Newark's Downtown. This year's observance once again involved Newark Public Schools and Catholic School students who are studying the Holocaust as part of their curriculum.

This year's keynote speaker was Robert Max, a Jewish American soldier who served in the 6th Armored Division in the Battle of the Bulge, who was captured by the Nazi Waffen SS during the battle, and forced to work as a slave laborer. His ordeal spoke to both the heroism of the American troops who liberated Europe and the Nazi concentration camps 70 years ago and the resilience of Hitler's Jewish prisoners. In recent years, Mr. Max has begun speaking about his wartime experiences.

"It has been exactly 70 years since American, British, Canadian, and Soviet troops revealed the true horror of Adolf Hitler's genocide against Jews, Roma, gays, Slavs, and many others, by liberating the Nazi concentration camps, ending a decade of terror and six years of world war. Today those memories are distant, the images are faded, but the lessons and importance of the Holocaust are as real as ever. We have seen genocide repeated in Bosnia, Rwanda, and the Sudan, and racism continuing to create tragedy at home, from the Civil Rights Era to the recent events in Missouri and Staten Island. By teaching our youth about Holocaust and genocide, they gain tools to prevent these horrors from repeating itself, and to better transform Newark – and our world – into a community we can all believe in," said Mayor Baraka in a statement.

The observance also featured musical performances by the Arts High School Choir, and was sponsored by Holocaust Council of Metro West, the City of Newark's Department of Neighborhood and Recreational Services, the Newark Public Schools, The Berger Organization, LLC, the Betesh Group, Edison Properties, LLC, RBH Group LLC, Temple B'nai Abraham of Livingston, and Manischewitz. Berger Organization Chairman and Chief Operating Officer Miles Berger served as Master of Ceremonies. In addition, two former Mayors of Newark, Kenneth A. Gibson and Sharpe James, were in attendance. Former Mayor James, who created the annual observance 28 years ago, delivered remarks.

Mr. Max served in the 9th Armored Infantry battalion, part of the 6th Armored Division (the "Super Sixth"), under Lt. Gen. George S. Patton's legendary US 3rd Army. In December 1944, seeking to turn the tide of the war, the Germans attacked the thinly-held American line in the Ardennes Forest in Belgium and Luxembourg, seeking to drive to Antwerp, and split the Allied forces in half. The American sent the 101st Airborne Division by road to the Belgian town of Bastogne, to prevent the Germans from using the vital road network. The paratroopers were soon encircled, and had to be relieved by Patton from the south.

The US 4th Armored Division hooked up with the 101st Airborne, but suffered heavy casualties in doing so. The 6th Armored Division was sent in to relieve the 4th Armored, and reached Bastogne just in time – the Germans moved three tough panzer divisions to attack Bastogne, including the 12th SS Panzer Division, heavily-equipped and made up for former Hitler Youth, filled with Nazi ideology.

The 12th SS hit the 6th Armored on January 6th in large force, forcing the division to retreat for the first time since it had entered action in July 1944. Mr. Max was captured near the Belgian town of Marvie by the SS, who stripped him of his winter clothing. He was forced to work as a slave laborer, sleeping on open ground, and ultimately escaping captivity.

After the war, he graduated from Ohio University, where he was elected president of the Hillel Foundation, several honor and professional societies, and met his wife, Shirley. Together they raised three children.

After graduation, he created several businesses, training middle and upper management in Fortune 500 companies in communications skills. He was elected president of New Jersey State Association of Jewish Federations, chaired the Union County Advisory Council on Aging, and served on numerous other community service organizations. He was also president of two Jewish congregations, and, approaching his 92nd birthday, sees no reason to "slow down."

He was recognized by the Jewish Historical Society of New Jersey with its Lasting Impressions Award in 2008.

"Although my experiences as a slave laborer were painful and even unimaginable, I do not want to go back and erase those days," Mr. Max said. "As Elie Wiesel wrote, 'For in the end, it is all about memory, its sources and its magnitude, and, of course, its consequences.'

"While hospitalized, a force I didn't understand seemed to be saying, "you were do something about it." What the Germans failed to achieve – my demise – became the impetus, the challenge to make the rest of my life meaningful by helping others," he added. "It led to leadership roles in charitable, social service, religious and civic organizations over the next 60 years."

The City of Newark's Annual Holocaust Remembrance, now in its third decade, is the state's largest and oldest observance. Every year the observance focuses not only on memorializing those who were victims of the Holocaust, but emphasizes the importance of remembering the past for the sake of the future.

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