On the eve of Yom Ha Shoah, Beverly Newman, Founder and Executive Director of the Al Katz Center for Holocaust Survivors & Jewish Learning, presented Longboat Key resident Dr. Thomas O. Hecht and his wife Riva with both a Congressional and City of Sarasota, FL proclamation noting his life long work in support of Israel.
Dr. Hecht graciously and humbly accepted the awards. After the award ceremony Dr. Hecht gave a speech titled “Never Again” on the eve of Yom Ha Shoah, the Holocaust remembrance day. During his speech he warned that what happened in 1938 can happen again if we forget the lessons learned by those who survived the Holocaust, like Dr. Hecht.
Dr. Hecht quoted Professor Dina Porat of Yad Vashem who said, ‘It is a necessity, indeed an imperative, due to the historical truth and legacy, that our generation will bequeath to those who will come after us, to speak not only of the horrendous loss but also to reveal in its fullest scope the heroic struggle of the people, the community and the individual during the days of massacre and the very epicenters of destruction.”
Individuals like Hannah Senesh. As Jerry Gordon from the New English Review reports, “One of the Shoah victims was a young valiant Hungarian Jewish woman, a Zionist Haganah underground resistance fighter in pre-State Israel, Hannah Senesh. Senesh grew up in a privileged assimilated bourgeois Jewish family in Budapest. She was the daughter of a popular playwright, Bela Senesh, his wife Katherine and younger sibling to her older brother Giora… In 1943, she enlisted in the British Army and volunteered to train with a small group of Palestinian Jews on a mission to Nazi – occupied Hungary for the British Secret Operations Executive. She had hoped to save her mother and fellow Hungarian Jews about to be shipped on death trains to Auschwitz. It was the only military mission sent to rescue Jews during the Shoah. Palestinian Jews had learned early in World War II about Hitler’s Final Solution that eventually murdered Six Million European men, women and children by war’s end.”
“After staying with Yugoslav partisans, she and her team were discovered after crossing into Hungary. She was incarcerated, tortured in a Gestapo prison and shot by a German firing squad in November 1944,” noted Gordon.
Dr. Hecht noted it was the 70th anniversary of the Holocaust and that “Sixty-four years ago the UN ratified the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, with the horrors of the Holocaust still fresh in the minds of the international community. One of he convention’s provisions made it a crime to directly and publicly incite to commit genocide.”
“Notwithstanding this, [Iran’s President] Mahmoud Ahmadinejad came to New York and the UN and insisted that the very existence of the Zionist Regime was an affront to all world nations He called on all human communities to wipe out the Zionist Regime ‘from the forehead of humanity’. Yet in the face of the exhortation to destroy a UN member state, the UN said nothing,” lamented Dr. Hecht.
Dr. Hecht warned, “The world stands idly by while we witness a new clash of civilizations, as Professor Samuel P. Huntington described after the end of the Cold War, between Islam and the West, of which the Jewish state of Israel is the canary in the coal mine.”
Dr. Hecht concluded by stating, “By telling about our own experiences during this tragedy to the next generation and to all our neighbors, we will make a contribution to the awareness of the Holocaust and other genocides, and that indeed we have an opportunity and a responsibility. A responsibility that ‘Never Again’ will be NEVER AGAIN and that thus crimes of the past will never come to be repeated.”