RICHMOND, Va. –
Holocaust is a Greek word meaning "sacrifice by fire." According to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, District of Columbia, the Holocaust was the systematic, bureaucratic, state-sponsored persecution and murder of six million Jews by the Nazi regime and its collaborators. The Nazis, who came to power in Germany in January 1933, believed that Germans were "racially superior" and that the Jews, deemed "inferior," were an alien threat to the so-called German racial community.
Defense Logistics Agency Aviation’s Procurement Process Support Directorate honored those who died and those who survived this horrific chapter in history with a Holocaust Days of Remembrance 2016 program held at the McKeever Auditorium on Defense Supply Center Richmond, Virginia, May 25.
DLA Aviation Deputy Commander Charlie Lilli gave opening remarks. “Our world is filled with a lot of horrible things, but all those horrible things somehow turn into things that make our culture and world better. An important part of that is taking a minute to stop and think about all the things it took to build the world we live in today,” said Lilli.
After a brief introduction, guest speaker, Holocaust refugee and motivational speaker Alex Keisch began his presentation titled “Tolerance, The Road to Acceptance,” demonstrating his quick wit and comedic side, much to the delight of those in attendance. “That was a wonderful introduction; almost like I had written it myself,” said Keisch with a huge smile.
That would be one of only a handful of funny moments during the close to an hour and a half program. Keisch then asked the crowd to observe a minute of silence. Afterwards, he put it into sobering context.
”If I asked us all to be silent for one minute for each of those millions, our silence would last 11 and a half years,” he said.
During his presentation, Keisch told the riveting stories of his journeys, from being born inside the Plaszov Nazi labor camp in Poland near the end of World War II, to him migrating to the United States. Plaszov was the camp near the city of Krakow, Poland from which Oscar Schindler rescued more than 1,000 Jews and was the basis for the film “Schindler’s List.” Keisch grew up in Connecticut and then spent time in the United States Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point, New York, until finally settling in Richmond in the fall of 1984.
“As long as I can breathe or speak, the Holocaust will not be a footnote in history. I will bring it to the forefront as often as necessary,” said Keisch.
While Keisch said he vows to make sure the horrors of the past are never forgotten, these days he uses his warmth and humor and personal perspective of the Holocaust to teach, in his words, “a simple, not simplistic approach to systemically stop our epidemic of bullying.”
“My personal belief is that bullying is a host culture in a petri dish that breeds, propagates and nurtures genocides. It’s not going to happen one day to the next. It’s decades sometimes, generations sometimes, and sometimes centuries of bullying,” Keisch said.
To help today’s young people try and break this vicious cycle, Keisch said he volunteers his time as a Boy Scout Merit instructor as well as gives talks at primary schools, as well as universities, military bases, synagogues, churches and civic groups.
“The fact is you can make a difference, no matter who you are, no matter what walk of life you are in. You can make a difference,” said Keisch.