By Elise Spleiss
Sacramento Region, CA (MPG) – Holocaust Remembrance Day was May 5th, 2016. On Sunday, May 1st, 2016 the Sacramento region had an opportunity to learn about the experiences of two Holocaust survivors during World War II. The highly educational event encouraged children and teens to attend with their families. The theme for this year’s Sacramento Yom HaShoah (Day of Remembrance) Commemoration was: “The Holocaust: Coming of Age during the Holocaust.”
The stories of survivors Gina Parker and Rita Rimalower-Nettler was told by their daughters, Tamara Theodore and Michele Gold. Both survivors were 15-years-old when their stories began.
Theodore told her mother, Gina Parker’s story in public for the first time. From the age of 15 to 22, Parker survived five labor concentration camps from 1939 to 1945, three in Poland and two in Germany. She also suffered through but survived two “death marches.” She was finally freed from the second march by Russian troops on April 23rd, 1945 at the age of 22. She weighed 65 pounds and was wearing only a prison dress, a high heel shoe and a boot. The march began with 10,000 prisoners but only 20 had survived from her group.
In 2007 Parker visited the classroom of Janet Smith, a teacher at Lincoln High School. Her talk was readily received by the students. Theodore will have thank you notes from these students at her talk. Gina Parker died on February 19th, 2013 of COPD, a pulmonary disease, related to enforced testing done on her by doctors during her incarceration.
Theodore said that she often felt guilty when she asked her mother about her experiences. Even though those memories made her physically ill Parker maintained, “I will go to the grave with the pain I have and the loss I have. But I don’t have any bitterness towards the Germans. They were duped.”
Michele Gold is an educator at the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust and author of “Memories that Won’t Go Away: A Tribute to the Children of the Kindertransport.” Gold’s mother was Rita Rimalower-Nettler who was 15-years-old when became one of 10,000 Jewish refugee children brought from Germany to Great Britain from 1938 to 1940 on the Kindertransport. She arrived in England on March 3rd, 1939 and was taken in and raised by a loving family. Gold uses the more than 40 post cards discovered in her mother’s belongings following her death in 2008 to tell her story. The cards which had been written to her aunt and uncle in Switzerland tell the of Rita’s attempts to discover what had happened to her parents.
This special event included a candlelight procession, a poetry reading, and recognition of the student winners of the “Tribute to the Rescuers” essay contest. The international contest, sponsored by the Institute for Holocaust Education, asked contestants to recognize an historical individual or group who showed moral courage with a tie into the Holocaust.