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December 18, 2015  RSS feed

Text: T T T

27-nation consular corps to honor Nazi victims in Tampa on Jan. 24

Morton Brooks in October 1944, three months before the Jewish-American GI was captured by the Nazis. Morton Brooks in October 1944, three months before the Jewish-American GI was captured by the Nazis. When International Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremonies are held in Tampa on Sunday, Jan. 24 those attending will hear the story of a Jewish-American soldier who witnessed fellow prisoners of war die in a Nazi labor camp and the story of a woman who, as a young girl, was nearly strangled and thrown from a moving train by a Nazi soldier.

The Remembrance Day program will be held three days before the 71st anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp, where one million Jews were murdered by the Nazis. The United Nation resolved that Jan. 27 be designated as a day to honor and remember all Holocaust victims and encourage the development of education programs about Holocaust history to help prevent further acts of genocide.

Hosted by the Tampa Bay Consular Corps, which includes consuls representing 27 countries, the event will focus on anti-Semitism.

The program will be held at 3 p.m. at the Italian Club, 1731 E. Seventh Ave., Ybor City. The United Nations Association of Tampa, Tampa Sister Cities International and the Florida Holocaust Museum are cooperating in presenting the event.

Seating for the event is limited and those who would like to attend must RSVP to Vincent Genovese, Consular Correspondent of Italy for Tampa Bay, to secure admission to the ceremonies. Contact Genovese at

Genovese will welcome those present and Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn will read a city proclamation condemning anti-Semitism, then Gloria Marina Bellelli, Consul General of Italy, will give opening remarks and Monsignor Robert Morris of St. Catherine of Siena Catholic Church will speak on the 50th anniversary of Nostre Aetate, a historic Catholic document that, among other declarations, rejects anti-Semitism of any sort. Other local dignitaries, foreign senior officers from Cenral Command and representatives of various faiths will also be in attendance.

Rabbi Barbara Aiello, who divides her time between rabbinical work in Italy and Sarasota, will lead a candle lighting service. Six survivors of Nazi horror, escorted by consuls general of Canada, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, and Estonia, will light candles in the presence of the MacDill’s Tampa Central Command Honor Guard to honor the 6 million Jews who lost their lives.

Col. Daniel Tulley, commander of MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, will speak on GI POWs in Germany during World War II, then Dr. Morton Brooks, 93, a Boynton Beach resident who survived a German POW death camp, will speak.

Brooks’ story is related in Given Up for Dead: American GIs in the Nazi Concentration Camp at Berga by Flint Whitlock. The 19-year-old Brooks, who was born Morton Brimberg but changed his name after the war, was hunkered down in a foxhole when German tanks advanced on the 42nd Infantry

Division in France and overran their position, capturing a number of Americans on Jan. 9, 1945. Brooks said he admitted to his captors he was Jewish. He and the other POWs were sent to the Berga hard labor prison camp, where they were forced to dig in mines – which Brooks said he later heard were uranium mines. The POWs were often beaten and several died of exhaustion. As allied forces advanced on Germany, the surviving POWs were led from the camp on what became a death march.

At one point during the march, he and another soldier escaped into the woods, but a farmer found them and pointing a shotgun at them, returned them to their German captors. Brooks, a prisoner for 107 days, weighed about 140 pounds before entering the war and was about 70 pounds when he was finally freed by American troops.

Following comments by Hava Holzhaur, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, Holocaust survivor Carolyn Kaplan of Sarasota will tell of her family’s flight from Germany after the Nazi soldier’s attempt to strangle her and toss her off a moving train.

When Hitler rose to power in 1933, all Jews in Kaplan’s tiny German village became targets. She was only 7 years old when Nazi soldiers entered her classroom demanding to know which students were Jews. When she and a friend were identified, they were denounced as “Dirty Jew,” and their desks were overturned. As conditions worsened, she was chased and harassed, with the abuse culminating when a Nazi soldier attempted to strangle her and toss her off the moving train. Her family fled Germany for Holland, then the United States. Kaplan later learned all of her mother’s family were murdered by the Nazis.

The Consular Corps of Tampa Bay will also honor the winners of its student essay contest on anti- Semitism during the program.

Rabbi David Weizman of Congregation Beth Shalom in Clearwater will lead a kaddish prayer for the dead and cantors from the Bay Area Cantorial Association, including Riselle Bain, Rick Berlin, Laura Berkson, Deborrah Cannizzaro, Joy Katzen-Guthrie, Beth Scholssberg and Jonathan Schultz, will perform, with Tara Swartzbaugh on piano and Jill Pfluke on violin.

Following the program, a catered dinner will he held on the first floor of the Italian Club at 5 p.m., including a cash bar. The cost is $27 and those interested should RSVP to Genovese.

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