Daisy Brand was 14 in 1944, when Nazi German forces took control of the Hungarian town where she lived, forcing her into a series of concentration camps where she faced hard labor, starvation, abuse, and the death of those closest to her.
“It was a cruel procedure of gradually taking away everything we had on us,” she told about 350 people, including other survivors and community leaders who crowded into Faneuil Hall Sunday to commemorate the Holocaust and celebrate its survivors.
She told of how her mother, suffering from ulcers and unable to continue working, disappeared one evening during a five-day march from one camp to another.
Brand recounted her hopes that her mother had escaped. A man she met 65 years later, who was also a prisoner, told Brand that he had helped pull the carts that carried the sick and feeble on that march. He told her that guards ordered the men to sit down for a lunch break, took the sick prisoners behind a patch of bushes, and shot them — finally dashing Brand’s hopes.
Survivors and their loved ones lit candles, recounted stories, and performed songs about the Holocaust at the annual ceremony, organized by the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston. Even though the number of people who lived through the Holocaust 70 years ago is shrinking each year, said Shai Bazak, Israeli consul general to New England, survivors’ stories must continue to be told.
“If [the Holocaust] can happen in Europe, the civilized, enlightened Europe, it can happen again, every day, every time, everywhere,” Bazak said.
Rolf Schütte, the German consul general to the region, said he encourages more discussion about the Holocaust and its legacy.
“The Holocaust is an element that both separates and binds the Germans and Jews like no other two people,” Schütte said.
Mayor Thomas M. Menino used the event to thank the members of the Jewish community he has worked with during his 20 years in office.
“We must always keep the victims of the Holocaust in our thoughts,” Menino said. “We can continue to ensure that their legacy will remain for years to come.”
Stephan Ross, a survivor of 10 concentration camps who founded the New England Holocaust Memorial in 1995, said he keeps attending memorial ceremonies, in part to ensure that survivors are not forgotten.
After the ceremony, Ross and his son, City Councilor Mike Ross of Boston, walked with other survivors and descendants to the nearby Holocaust Memorial.
White steam rose from vents under the memorial’s six glass towers, representing the 6 million Jews killed in the six main death camps over six years. Teenagers stood between the towers, reading the names and hometowns of people killed.
“As long as there are survivors with us, we need to make them understand that they are not being forgotten,” said Janet V. Stein of Brookline, president of the American Association of Jewish Holocaust Survivors of Greater Boston. “A lot of them felt like they were forgotten during the war.”
About a dozen protesters stood outside Faneuil Hall, holding signs in support of Palestinians and against what one of the protesters, Bob Bowes of Somerville, called “the politicization of the Holocaust.”
“This is something most activists don’t come to,” Bowes said of the ceremony. “There is a lot of good in the religion and culture of Judaism, but then there’s a lot of bloodshed that’s happening on the Palestinian side with Zionism.”