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Students hear from Holocaust survivors in Fairfax District

April 22, 2009 |  3:51 pm

About 2,500 Los Angeles-area students got a stark lesson in the Holocaust today at an outdoor "remembrance day" at Pan-Pacific Park in L.A.'s Fairfax District.

 Renee Firestone told the audience of how, toward the end of World War II, she and her younger sister, Klara, were imprisoned in Auschwitz. Firestone survived 13 months of captivity and at 21 was liberated by Russian troops on the last day of the war. Klara died after being subjected to Nazi medical experiments.

Under an immense blue-and-white-striped tent, students from across the region heard Jewish songs sung by the Sinai Akiba Academy Choir and listened as other students talked about Nazi propaganda, the 1936 Berlin Olympics and Hitler's plan for a "final solution" that would eliminate all Jews.

As it was, noted Jona Goldrich, one of the event sponsors, 6 million Jews died in the Holocaust, along with 5 million Catholics, Gypsies and others. "It was the biggest crime the world has ever seen," said Goldrich, a Los Angeles developer who as a teenager eluded the Gestapo in Poland. Goldrich is leading an effort to build a new $14-million home for the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust in the park. Construction began in January 2008.

Khem Marriott, 14, a world history student at Los Angeles Center for Enriched Studies, said the program was a reminder to "let people be who they are."

--Martha Groves