News | May 20, 2019

Distribution Multicultural committee hosts Holocaust Remembrance Day event

By Brianne M. Bender DLA Distribution Command Affairs

DLA Distribution Headquarters employees and its Multicultural Committee, paid respect to Holocaust Remembrance Day April 30, with a presentation by Retired Pennsylvania Office of Administrative Law Judge Felix Thau and music by the Cedar Cliff High School choir. The theme of this year’s Days of Remembrance is “Learning from the Holocaust: Beyond Religious Boundaries.”

As employees entered the auditorium, they each received a personal history card telling the true story of a person who lived during the Holocaust. These cards are distributed to visitors of the National Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., in an effort to show that behind the massive statistics are real people—children and parents, neighbors and friends—and a diversity of personal experience.

Distribution Deputy Commander Twila C. Gonzales, Senior Executive Service, began the program by expressing how extremely important it is that we “remember the suffering of millions who were persecuted under Nazi Germany during World War II.”

As Thau took the stage, he explained he was born in Bataysk, Soviet Union, several months after World War II ended. “My father, having never lost his Germanic ethos, was eager to return to Berlin – in 1946, my parents and I left the Soviet Union to make our way west.”

Thau went on to tell the story of his young life. “The War had been over for about a year, but the killing of Jewish people continued at the hands of the Polish and Ukrainians. Jews were killed on the streets. We had to barricade our temporary residence for fear of being killed.”

Eventually Thau and his family received help from members of a group of Jewish fighters called the Haganah, which is a Hebrew word for defense. “The Haganah smuggled us across the Polish/German border into Germany in a truck.”

Finding themselves in the American sector of Berlin, Germany, the Thau family were now refugees in the city of his father’s birth. They settled into a Displaced Persons Camp. 

Thau’s parents intended to relocate to what would soon become Israel, but due to his young age, the Haganah would not assist with their immigration. Thau’s uncle emigrated to the United States and, after the birth of his younger brother, his parents decided to follow his father’s brother.

“With Uncle Joe as our sponsor and the Hebrew Immigration Aid Society assistance, the four of us arrived in New York City in May 1948. We eventually settled in Philadelphia.”

Thau went on to receive a bachelor’s degree from Temple University. He was drafted into the Army in 1968 – serving 11 months in Germany. When he returned home, he enrolled in Temple University’s Law School, while maintaining full-time employment with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

In 1980, Thau began his career with the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, working his way up to Deputy Chief Counsel.

Pennsylvania Governor Robert Casey appointed Thau to serve as an administrative law judge for the Office of Administration Law – a newly-created independent agency attached to the PLCB – in 1988. He served in this capacity until his retirement in 2015.

In addition to Thau’s presentation, Rabbi Eric Cytryn provided the invocation for the remembrance event. The Cedar Cliff High School choir performed the national anthem, as well as two song selections – “The Road Home” and “You are the New Day.”