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Holocaust survivor uses Greensburg service to honor nun who saved her

| Monday, April 8, 2013, 12:29 a.m.
Eric Schmadel | Tribune-Review
Rabbi Sara Rae Perman (left) assists survivor Shulamit Bastacky to light one of the candles in rememberance of Holocaust victims during the Yom Hashoah service on Sunday, April 7, 2013, at Congregation Emanu-El Israel in Greensburg.

Among those who rose to light candles on Sunday in Greensburg's Congregation Emanu-El Israel during an interfaith memorial service of Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Memorial Day, was Shulamit Bastacky.

The only Holocaust survivor in attendance, Bastacky, 71, of Squirrel Hill said she was thinking of family members who perished, and of a Roman Catholic nun.

“I am a hidden child survivor, standing before you here today because of one individual who saved my life,” she said.

Born in 1941 in Nazi-occupied Vilna, Lithuania, the Jewish infant was sheltered by the nun in a basement for several years.

She does not recall the nun but knows from her family that the woman fed and cared for her and kept her safe.

Bastacky regularly speaks to schoolchildren, college students and adults, sharing her story and that of the atrocities of the Holocaust.

She speaks in memory of those loved ones who perished, she said, and in honor of those for whom there is no one to speak.

“I promote tolerance and respect of others' cultures, religions and traditions,” Bastacky said.

Irene Rothschild, whose family survived the Holocaust and who serves as president of Congregation Emanu-El Israel, welcomed about 100 people to the program.

“Unfortunately, prejudice and bigotry still are practiced by some. ... Thank you for being here today and recognizing the importance of remembering those who did not survive the Holocaust,” Rothschild said.

As six candles were lit in remembrance of the 6 million Jews killed by Nazis, those attending rose and read the names, ages and places of death of children, parents, teachers, rabbis and martyrs.

A seventh candle was lit in memory of the non-Jews who died at the hands of the Nazis and gave their lives in fighting that oppression.

“We shall not forget,” those attending murmured after each candle was lit.

Sunday's program marked the 25th year that Westmoreland County held the communitywide memorial service.

The film “Ahead of Time” was scheduled to be shown after the memorial service.

The documentary tells the story of Ruth Gruber, born in Brooklyn, N.Y., in 1911, who became the youngest Ph.D. in the world at 20.

By 24, she was a foreign correspondent and photojournalist whose career included escorting a group of 1,000 Jewish refugees from Italy to America in 1944 and covering the Nuremberg trials in 1946.

The Yom HaShoah observance is jointly sponsored by the Westmoreland Jewish Community Council of the United Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh, the Greensburg Ministerium, the Greater Latrobe Ministerial Association, the National Catholic Center of Holocaust Education of Seton Hill University, the Greensburg-Jeannette NAACP, Congregation Emanu-El Israel and Beth Israel Synagogue in Latrobe.

Mary Pickels is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-5401 or mpickels@tribweb.com.

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