Veterans and Southern Brooklynites gathered at the Fort Hamilton Community Club on April 12 for its annual Holocaust Day of Remembrance on Yom HaShoah, which marks the anniversary of the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in German-occupied Poland.
The event was marked by a keynote speech by the grandson of an American couple who saved many Jewish people during the Holocaust by facilitating rescue plans and emptying their savings accounts to help Jews fund their moves from Europe to the U.S. Rabbi Dovid Reidel said he was honored to discuss his grandparents’ contributions to the rescue effort, and also to highlight the roles of ordinary people who fought the Holocaust.
“For me personally, it was very inspiring to participate in an event which involved the Army, and I think the bulk of the crowd wasn’t even Jewish, yet they took the event so seriously in stressing the importance of not just remembering but also being inspired by the victims and the rescuers,” said Reidel, who is the director of research and archives at the Amud Aish Memorial Museum in Mill Basin.
Reidel told the crowd of about two dozen veterans, locals, and Jewish community leaders the story of his grandfather, Mike Tress, who lived in Williamsburg and was born in the U.S. in 1910, and later devoted his life to helping save as many Jews as he could from Nazi oppression, in part by lobbying officials at the State Department to supply the refugees with visas, Reidel said.
The rabbi added that his grandfather undertook the rescue effort while his wife was taking care of their eleven children, and that she later helped Reidel understand how and why she supported her husband’s decision to focus his efforts away from his family.
“I once asked my grandmother how she went along with that, and she said, ‘every person must do their best to make the world a better place,’ ” he said.