NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Sunday was International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
In Poland, dozens of holocaust survivors commemorated the 74th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz Nazi death camp.
The group gathered with international leaders at the site where more than 1 million people were murdered during World War II.
Most of them were European Jews.
Russia’s red army finally liberated the camp on Jan. 27, 1945.
One native New Yorker who recently uncovered details of his father’s time in Auschwitz took part in an interfaith panel. The event was meant to bring together people of all faiths, CBS2’s Lisa Rozner reported.
Helen and Leon Hershkowitz survived concentration camps during the holocaust. Their son, Dr. Allen Hershkowitz, said growing up in Crown Heights he felt their suffering daily.
“My father survived 19 months in Auschwitz, but he also survived prison before being sent to Auschwitz,” Allen said. “His first wife was murdered. He had two sons. They were murdered. His parents were murdered. His brothers and sisters were murdered.”
Allen Hershkowitz found his father’s documents from Auschwitz and talked about them as part of a panel commemorating International Holocaust Remembrance Day at the Sheen Center for Thought and Culture in lower Manhattan.
Ann Jaffe, 87, lived through the horror.
“I lived through the first 15 months in my own little town where I saw all the Jews, almost, about 10 percent, we were lucky. About 10 percent survived the war, but that’s an exception,” Jaffe said.
Web Extra: Full Interview With Holocaust Survivor Ann Jaffe:
One topic taking center stage was the rise in hate crimes and particularly anti-Semitic incidents.
“When Pittsburgh occurred, a week later people of all different faiths came together to the sanctuaries and said we stand with you. We are all Jews,” said Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, the executive vice president of the New York Board of Rabbis.
“These stories are like lights — they can lighten the darkness. As long as we remember the suffering of people, we are most likely not going to repeat the same tragedy that happened,” added Imam Dr. Tahir Kukaj, vice president of the Albanian Islamic Cultural Center on Staten Island.
The discussion was heard by people in the audience of all ages, and all backgrounds.
“There was a couple people who came backstage just after the show had ended, two of whom were in tears,” Sheen Center executive director Bill Reilly said.
Sending home one message:
“Teach people kindness through your own behavior,” Jaffe said.
And have compassion.
The Sheen Center is a project of the Archdiocese of New York. Sunday’s event was one of many it hosts to strengthen bonds in the community.