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Playhouse dedicates Leiman Garden of Remembrance

David Leiman speaks at the dedication of the Garden of Remembrance at the Flat Rock Playhouse. [SCOTT TREADWAY/Treadshots]

We must never forget the horror, magnitude and evil of the Holocaust, David Leiman said, as he spoke at the dedication of the Leiman Garden of Remembrance Monday on the grounds of the Flat Rock Playhouse.

"An Obelisk stands in the city square of Mielec, Poland in memory of where the Grand Synagogue once stood across from what was once my great-grandmother’s home where my father had lived," he said. "On Sept. 12, 1939, the evening of Rosh Hashanah the Jewish New Year, the German army sealed and burned that ancient synagogue filled with worshippers praying for peace in the coming year. At least four of the surviving Leiman family members subsequently were murdered in Auschwitz Berkenau. About 6 million Jewish men, women and children were murdered by the Germans and their collaborators as part of Adolph Hitler’s 'Final Solution.'"

Several dozen people gathered for the dedication of the garden and place of peace that includes stone benches, flowers and landscaping on the ancient Great Flat Rock behind the Lowndes House. David Leiman and his wife, Sharon, who are generous supporters of the Playhouse, funded the garden.

"Here we gather at the Garden of Remembrance surrounded by a place of joy and laughter where so many vagabonds, apprentices, staff and volunteers put their hearts and souls into giving the community pleasure beyond what one could expect in the little beautiful village of Flat Rock," he said. "But we must never forget the orchestra at the Jankowski Concentration Camp whose members performed while standing in a circle around the conductor and overseen by Warzok Franz, the camp commandant, a propaganda technique set up in most concentration camps to satisfy the eyes of the Red Cross."

Here are excerpts from Leiman's remarks at the dedication:

"But, we must never forget Adolph Hitler, who was responsible for yet another 6 million murders:

"Never Forget- the 300-400,000 mentally and physically handicapped who were sterilized; 200,000 euthanized so as not to impact the growth of the Aryan race.

"Never Forget- The Jehovah Witnesses who were removed from German society, many never seen again.

"Never Forget-About half million Roma, also called Gypsies and Sinti, who were confined to concentration camps.

"Never Forget- The Gay men who suffered greatly as the Nazi regime carried out a campaign of persecution between 1933-1945. Gay presses were shuttered, bars and meeting places were closed and tens of thousands were arrested and tried. Using Paragraph 175 of the German penal code, that prejudice continued against same-sex relations due to postwar German enforcement until 1994.

"Never Forget-After WWI, as the German military returned from Africa, separation of white and black people was mandated by the Reichstag which enacted a law against mixed marriages. The use of black French troops in the occupation heightened black racism In Germany; propaganda depicted them as rapists of german women and carriers of venereal and other diseases. The children of Black soldiers and German women were called 'Rhineland Bastards.' Over time the Gestapo secretly rounded up and forcibly sterilized many of them; some subjected to the horrors of Dr. Josef Mengele’s medical experiments."

"Never Forget-Czeslawa Kwoka, also known as #26947, a 14-year-old Catholic girl given a phenol injection in her heart after being beaten and watching her mother die; one of 250,000 young children murdered in the Auschwitz extermination camp. Hitler blamed Jesus’ Semitic roots for his distaste toward Catholics. ...."

"Never Forget (that) it didn’t start with gas chambers. It started with one party controlling the media. One party controlling the message. One party deciding what is truth. One party censoring speech and silencing opposition. One party dividing citizens into us and them and calling on their supporters to harass the other. It started when Good People turned a blind eye and let it happen. And so it continues in places where it remains difficult to practice your beliefs: North Korea, Afghanistan, Somalia, Libya, Pakistan, Eritrea, Yemen, Iran, Sudan, China."

Leiman thanked volunteer gardeners who planted hundreds of daffodils.

"The shape and color of the daffodils represent the yellow stars that Jews were forced to wear during the Holocaust," he said. "Yellow is the color of Remembrance and they will return each spring with a burst of color signifying hope, renewal and beauty."

Sharon Leiman thanked the Katz and Palladino families for donating the benches, Growing Concern Nursery for providing a tree of life, Tamsin Allpress for her "vision and artistry (in) creating this beautiful and serene space," Southwinds Landscaping, Clyde & Nina Allen for enhancing the pathway to the garden and Paul Feraldi and Kim Hinkelman for coordinating the project. "Last but certainly not least we are thankful to all those behind the scenes who without their help none of this would have been possible," she said.

Rabbi Rachael Jackson lighted candles dedicating the benches, trees and other features.

"Hopefully this poignant moment has touched you in a meaningful way," Sharon said in closing. "That it leaves you with an awareness of how hate breeds distrust, fear and anger toward those different from us that ultimately leads to crimes like that of the Holocaust…. May we first Remember….then never forget!"

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The children's book "What Was the Holocaust" has been made available for free at the Flat Rock Playhouse box office.