TOPEKA — Rachel Black believes now more than ever, the stories of the victims and survivors of the Holocaust need to be told so they are not forgotten.
"The time is now," the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors said in Topeka on Monday. "These are things that are very difficult for the first-generation to talk about but those survivors who are still living are starting to share more."
Black, of Lawrence, was the keynote speaker at the annual State of Kansas Holocaust Commemoration in downtown Topeka. Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer, Topeka Mayor Michelle De La Isla, Topeka lawmakers Sen. Laura Kelly and Sen. Vicki Schmidt and Rep. Melissa Rooker of Fairway, Kan., spoke during the event sponsored by the Kansas Holocaust Commission.
Born Herschel Lipa, Black's grandfather rescued Edjya Katz, her grandmother, after Edjya narrowly escaped a Nazi boxcar that was bound for Treblinka death camp for Jews in Poland. When the married couple arrived years later in the Boston Harbor in 1950, they changed their names to Harry and Ethel Black, Rachel Black said. She said Ethel died in 2005 at the age of 79 but Harry, 94, continues to live in Florida.
"I struggled and survived Hitler," Harry Black said in a short audio recording played for the audience gathered at the downtown Ramada. "Whatever happens, never give up hope. Never."
Although Harry Black recently began speaking more about how he lived through the Holocaust, Rachel Black said many of the stories about her paternal grandparents she had to learn from her parents.
"It's hard to face the reality of what happened to them," she said. "It was just too painful for them to tell me."
"We have to keep telling these stories. We have to speak up," Rachel Black continued. "If for nothing else, for hope. The Nazis were not successful in their plan. No matter how dark life can be, there will always be hope."
Attended by World War II veterans, the Holocaust commemoration ceremony included readings from Topeka area students along with Rabbi Debbie Stiel of Topeka's Temple Beth Shalom, Iman Omar Hazim of the Islamic Center of Topeka, Rev. Paul Whiting of the Metropolitan Community Church and Rev. Dale Matherly of First Christian Church, both of Topeka.
Contact reporter Angela Deines at (785) 295-1143 or @AngelaDeines on Twitter.