Museum to remember Holocaust one-by-one
The horrors of the Holocaust will he remembered and tales by three local survivors will be shared when the Florida Holocaust Museum observes Yom HaShoah – Holocaust Remembrance Day – on Monday, April 24.
This year’s commemoration will include free Museum admission from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and the reading of Holocaust victims’ names aloud throughout the day. Among the many names read, some will be of victims who had ties to this area.
Holocaust survivors who will share their memories of the war years are: John Rinde at noon and Jerry Rawicki at 2 p.m.
The program at the museum is supported by the Pinellas County Board of Rabbis and Tampa Rabbinical Association.
Those who would like to participate in the reading of Holocaust victims’ names should call the museum at (727) 820-0100, ext. 249. The museum is located at 55 Fifth St. S., St. Petersburg.
For more on the speakers,
The following are brief summaries about the three Holocaust survivors who will discuss their experiences during the daylong Yom HaShoah commemoration at the Florida Holocaust Museum on April 24:
John Rinde, who now lives in Largo, was born in Przemysl, Poland, and came from an upper class Orthodox Jewish family. His father was a businessman and John, then known as Jacob, was only 41/2 when the war began. By the time he was 7, his mother, who was blonde, blue-eyed and passed easily as Aryan, told her husband that the family needed to move away from their village to a place they were not known. She said they should give up their Jewish identity and live as Christians to avoid capture by Nazis. John’s father resisted surrendering his identity at first, but as more Jews were rounded up, he agreed to the deception. Jacob’s name was changed to John and his younger sister’s name was changed from Ruth to Irene. Their father held a job that brought him into contact almost daily with the Gestapo and for a time the family lived near the Majdanek death camp. After the war John wound up in New York and met another Holocaust survivor from Poland who as a toddler was given to a Catholic woman to raise as her daughter during the war. The woman he met, who he discovered came from the same Polish town, wound up becoming his wife, Toni Rinde.
Born in Plock, Poland, in 1927, Jerry Rawicki now lives in Seminole. He lived with his family in Plock until 1941 when the city’s Jews were expelled. He and his mother and sisters were sent to Bodzentyn, where they lived for a year and a half. To save his family from starvation, Rawicki dug graves. In 1942 he and his elder sister went to Warsaw, where their father had been living in the Warsaw Ghetto. Rawicki, now 15 joined a Jewish fighting group as a courier, managing to get in and out of the ghetto, smuggling and running errands.
Rawicki escaped when the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising began in April 1943. He ran out of ammunition and hid in an abandoned cellar. While in hiding, he was assisted by a young gentile man, who gave him food and a place to sleep. He was ill for weeks and was caught by German troops, but escaped. He left Warsaw in 1943, posing as a gentile, and worked on a farm. He became a member of Polish partisans and was liber- ated by the Soviet army in Lubin, Poland, in 1944. His sister also left the ghetto and posed as a gentile until the war ended, while his father, mother and another sister perished.
Mary Wygodski, who now lives in St. Petersburg, was born in Vilna, Poland. She was raised as the eldest of three sisters and one brother in a traditional middle class Jewish family. Her father was in the leather business.
In 1941, when she was 15, the family was incarcerated in the Vilna Ghetto. In 1943, when the village was liquidated, she was sent to the Kaiserwald Labor Camp in Latvia, separated from her mother and two sisters in a boxcar, never to see them again.
Later she was sent to the Stutthof death camp in Germany, and eventually to an ammunition factory in Magdeburg, Germany, where she remembers fellow prisoners becoming sick from toxic fumes. Her father and brother were executed in a concentration camp in Klooga, Estonia.