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March of Remembrance in Oakland honors Jewish holiday, Holocaust survivors

Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
Fred Mehling of Toronto, Ohio plays the shofar at the March of Remembrance, a walk and ceremony to mark the holocaust. The ceremony was held at Flagstaff Hill in Schenley Park in Oakland on Sunday, April 7, 2013.

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Monday, April 8, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
 

Sam Gottesman stared through a small opening in his train car at the sunlit spring sky over Eastern Europe.

About 90 other Czechoslovakian Jews stood in the boxcar with him, struggling for balance as the train lurched toward Auschwitz nearly 70 years ago.

“I was looking through that little window, hearing and seeing birds flying,” Gottesman, 90, of Squirrel Hill told about 100 people at the third annual March of Remembrance on Sunday in Schenley Park. He recalled wondering, as the pastoral German countryside rolled by, “What happened to us? What did we do?”

About 40 cities in the United States, as well as others overseas, hosted similar marches on Sunday. Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, began at sundown. Christians organized the Pittsburgh march as a statement of solidarity and an act of repentance, said Nathan Puro, pastor of Shoresh David Messianic Congregation in Monroeville.

“This happened essentially because of a silent majority among us, people who did or said nothing,” Puro said.

Gottesman's mother and five of his seven siblings are among more than 6 million Jews killed during the Holocaust.

When prisoners asked about their missing family members in Auschwitz, they were told that their family was cared for, he said.

Though Gottesman could see the smoke rising from one of Auschwitz's buildings, and smell burnt flesh in the air, he and many others who arrived with him didn't immediately realize the full horror of that camp, he said.

One day Gottesman heard a man say to a newcomer, “You see that smoke? That's where your family is.”

Mike Wereschagin is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7900 or mwereschagin@tribweb.com.

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