The Military Equal Opportunity Office in conjunction with the U.S. Army Intelligence Center of Excellence hosted the Days of Remembrance Observance April 9, which was preceded by three different discussion panels on post.
Eight Holocaust survivors were honored during the event held at Fitch Auditorium, Alvarado Hall. This year’s observance focused on the theme, “Confronting the Holocaust: American Responses.”
The topic highlighted two historical events: the Jewish refugee crisis of 1939 where the S.S. St. Louis, carrying 937 Jewish passengers, was denied entry in both Cuba and Miami, and the deportation of Hungarian Jews in Europe five years later. Attendees were asked to reflect upon what Americans today can learn from the past actions and inactions taken towards these events.
Guest speaker William Heidner, museum curator for the Museum Activity and Heritage Center of the U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground, Yuma, Ariz., looked deeper into American responses during this time in history for his presentation. Equipped with PowerPoint slides for visualization, Heidner discussed the nation’s strict immigration policies to elaborate on the voyage of the St. Louis and the transitions that took place within the Army.
“While Hitler’s henchmen were figuring out how to get rid of their ‘undesirable people,’ the United States Army was figuring out how to get rid of its ‘undesirable horses,’” he explained. “The Army was still a horse-driven organization … There had been some attempts to modernize the Army in inter-war years but there really had been no interest, certainly no money after the [Great] Depression.”
Heidner pointed out that the U.S. Army was too late in stopping the Nazi killing-machine by not landing in Germany until June 1944 and not approaching the labor camps until April 1945. He said while the U.S. Army was trying to find its new identity training infantry corps, armor corps and later combined armed corps, Soldiers were not prepared for the Holocaust aftermath they would witness in Europe.
“We did some important things, even in spite of being late,” he continued. Heidner focused on how U.S. troops provided much needed medical aid and assistance to survivors, even years after World War II ended.
“Perhaps the greatest response America gave to the world was the trial of the criminals,” he also explained, referring to the Nuremberg Trials.
In addition to the guest speaker’s presentation, attendees watched a short documentary film on the observance theme, listened to poetry, witnessed a candle lighting ceremony and participated in a Mourner’s Kaddish, a Jewish prayer.
The afternoon observance wasn’t the only Days of Remembrance activity on post. Earlier in the day discussion panels were held at three different locations: Murr Community Center, Directorate of Emergency Services, or DES, and Human Intelligence Training-Joint Center of Excellence, or HT-JCoE.
“Every year we pick up the survivors and bring them to Fort Huachuca to tell their personal stories to the community,” explained Master Sgt. Sharon Bower, senior advisor and program manager, Military Equal Opportunity Office.
Annique Dveirin was one of the seven participating survivors who shared her life experiences at HT-JCoE. She was born in Poland and given up by her parents at age 3. Dveirin told Soldiers how she grew up in five different orphanages, three of them located in France, before coming to the United States at 14 years old.
Dveirin explained while her story is often difficult to tell, it is something younger generations need to hear.
“Even if I can make this much of a difference, I would like to do it and I’ve been trying that for years not by speaking but by being a school teacher,” she said. Dveirin is a retired high school French and English teacher.
Holocaust survivor, and former Israeli Army K-9 handler, Wanda Wolosky took part in one additional activity as she was welcomed to a tour at the 18th Military Police Detachment K-9 Unit’s kennel facility. Afterward, Wolosky and panel attendees watched the Soldiers and dogs perform a demonstration.
The Congress-established Days of Remembrance week occurs April 27-May 4. Holocaust Remembrance Day is observed April 28. Days of Remembrance is the nation’s annual commemoration of Holocaust victims.
“What really sticks out to me [about the Days of Remembrance] is the attempt to understand how human hate happens and how you brainwash totally cultured civilized people to act worse than any animal,” Dveirin said. “Maybe there is some hope.”