Leo Bretholz, author of "Leap into Darkness: Seven Years on the Run in Wartime Europe" will speak at Frostburg State University's annual observance of Kristallnacht, the event that is considered by many to be the beginning of the Holocaust. The observance will be Wednesday, Nov. 8, at 7:30 p.m. in the Performing Art Center's Pealer Recital Hall.
Collegium Musicum will perform, and Hillel will conduct a candle-lighting ceremony. Bretholz's talk will be followed by a question-and-answer session.
"Leap into Darkness," which Bretholz wrote with Baltimore Sun columnist and WJZ commentator Michael Olesker, is the gripping account of a Bretholz as a young boy and his series of audacious escapes from the Nazis' Final Solution. He survived the Holocaust by escaping from the Nazis (and others) not once, but seven times during his almost seven-year ordeal crisscrossing war-torn Europe.
He leaped from trains, outran police and hid in attics, cellars, anywhere that offered a few more seconds of safety. First he swam the River Sauer at the German-Belgian border. Later he climbed the Alps on feet so battered they froze to his socks--only to be turned back at the Swiss border. He crawled out from under the barbed wire of a French holding camp and hid in a village in the Pyrenees while gendarmes searched it. And in the dark hours of one November morning, he escaped from a train bound for Auschwitz.
Bretholz arrived in the United States in 1947 and settled in Baltimore, where he worked in the textile business and then as a bookseller for many years. He continues to lecture extensively about his Holocaust memories.
Collegium Musicum will sing two pieces. One is "Zot Jerushalayim" (This is Jerusalem), arranged by Karen Sarnaker. The other is "Zol Shoyn Kumen Di Ge'uleh" (Let the Redemption Come) a poem by Shmerke Kaczerginski, set to music by Joshua Jacobson.
Kaczerginski was one of those Holocaust survivors who traveled around Europe visiting the displaced persons and sending a message of courage and hope. His poem expressed the feelings of the survivor trying to make a new beginning, determined never to give up on life, faith in humanity or the vision of a better world.
Nov. 8, 2000, will be the 62nd anniversary of Kristallnacht, called the "Night of Broken Glass" because of the litter of glass shards left in the streets in the aftermath of the two-day campaign of violence in 1938 by the Nazis against German Jews.
According to Encyclopedia Brittanica, the toll of the night's violence included 91 Jews killed, hundreds seriously injured, and thousands more were humiliated and terrorized. About 7,500 Jewish businesses were gutted, and an estimated 177 synagogues were burned or otherwise demolished. Kristallnacht and its aftermath marked a major escalation in the Nazi program of Jewish persecution.
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