By Michelle Colesanti
“Do not let anyone tell you that the Holocaust did not exist, I am living proof”….
On Wednesday, April 10, at 7 p.m., Congregation Beth Shalom will host Never Forget Guest Speaker, Philip Gans. This free program is open to the public and will be a great opportunity to hear a Holocaust survivor speak. Gans, who was born in 1928 in Amsterdam, is the leader of a campaign entitled, Erase the Hate.
Gans’ early childhood was a happy one. His life began to change in May 1940 when the Germans invaded Holland. The next few years were difficult as the Germans created their stronghold over the Jewish residents. Gans was arrested by the Nazis in July 1943 after spending a year in hiding. He was sent to Auschwitz at the age of 15, and was finally liberated by the Americans after participating in the infamous death march. He is the only survivor of 21 members on his father’s side.
A Clearwater resident, Gans tours the U.S. to speak against hate and intolerance.
On why it’s so important to speak out, he said, “One of the reasons I am doing this is because it won’t be long before there are no concentration camp survivors left. Students tell me they get so much more out of it hearing the story from a survivor than reading it in a book or seeing it on television.
Gans emphasizes the importance of not giving up hope, and don’t hate, and don’t be a bystander.”
DVDs giving a first-hand account of Gans’ experience and wristbands embossed with the phrase “ERASE THE HATE” and his camp number “139755” will be on sale. Each comes with an educational card explaining the significance of the number 139755.
Congregation Beth Shalom’s Rabbi Betsy Torop said, “Mr. Gans has a remarkable story of survival in the face of the ultimate horror. The opportunity to hear first person testimony from those who lived through the dark days of the Holocaust is rapidly diminishing. It is essential that we provide people with the opportunity to hear about these events from someone who actually witnessed the hate that one group of people can inflict on one another. If we are to successfully erase the hate and build a better world, seizing the rare opportunity to hear from people like Mr. Gans is imperative”.
This program is free and suitable for students in sixth grade and older. The congregation is located at 706 Bryan Rd. More information about the congregation can be found by calling 681-6547or at www.bethshalom-brandon.org.