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The City Pauses to Remember

Days of Remembrance service held at Market Square.

"First they came for the Communists but I was not a Communist so I did not speak out.

"Then they came for the socialists and the trade unionists but I was not one of them, so I did not speak out.

"Then they came for the Jews but I was not Jewish, so I did not speak out.

"And when they came for me, there was no one left to speak out for me."

Martin Emuller, Holocaust Survivor

Mayor William D. Euille read this quote as he welcomed Alexandrians to the city's 17th annual Days of Remembrance commemoration of victims of the Holocaust.

"We must never forget," Euille said.

The city's commemoration of the victims of the Holocaust began in 1988, under the guidance of U.S. Rep. James P. Moran (D-8) who was then the city's mayor. He put together the first Days of Remembrance Planning Committee and thanked the members of that committee at last Friday's ceremony.

Millions of individuals were murdered between 1933 and 1945 because they were different. Each year, as part of Yom Hashoah, the world stops for a few minutes to look back and, by doing so, to ensure that such a tragedy never happens again.

Ambassador Edward B. O'Donnell was the guest speaker at Friday's ceremony. He is the Special Envoy for Holocaust Issues with the U. S. Department of State.

"It's really a pleasure to see young people like Sarah Schaffer here today," O'Donnell said. "You are the future and it's very important that you carry forward this important message — this message of respect and tolerance. So we have a high priority for education in the future. The United States Government through the State Department, works with 15 other nations including Israel and several European countries in the framework of the task force for international cooperation on Holocaust remembrance and research.

"This task force...works with several central and eastern European countries and it puts particular emphasis on education which is the key to fostering tolerance and respect for minorities and a key to countering anti-semitism. We do this through teacher training and promoting understanding of the lessons of the Holocaust among the future leaders of Europe."

SARAH SCHAEFER, to whom O'Donnell made reference, is a senior at T. C. Williams High School. Remembering an event that occurred so many years before her birth is a challenge.

"I've been learning about the Holocaust for a long time," she said. "But when I began to seriously piece together my thoughts for this event, I felt like there was nothing new to say. I think that most people know about the horrors of the Holocaust, especially most of the people gathered here...

"More than 12 million were slaughtered, including homosexuals, Jehovha's Witnesses, Jews, gypsies and the disabled. As a member of one of the targeted groups, as a Jew, I feel like I own a piece of the mourning, like some part of the tragedy belongs to me. So, what bothers me most about the Holocaust is how distanced I feel from it despite being Jewish. It's easy for me to feel sorry it happened and still not connect...

"Because my generation will be the first to tell the story of the Holocaust to our children without the presence of those who experienced it firsthand, it's on us to preserve the Holocaust as a warning to the future. The pledge never again has been made and remade but unless we consciously work against our own apathy, violence will return..." she said.

Elected officials joined Holocaust survivor, Charlene Schiff, in lighting a candelabrum that was donated to the city by the Schiff family. There was music and prayers and the 100 or so Alexandrians who came to Market Square to remember, left with a sense of rededication to preventing the Holocaust from ever happening again.