“Practically everybody in the world has heard of the Holocaust. Schools everywhere teach students of all ages about the Holocaust – in English, Spanish, Japanese, and in any language known in any country with a school. Textbooks make the topic just like any other – wordy, filled with all sorts of names, dates, and vocabulary, and robotic. How can a student fully understand the time when six million Jews died if they do not understand how they died, the horrors they went through that were so much worse than the death that never failed to come?” wrote Rebecca Turner, winner of Bayonne High School’s 2009 Yom HaShoah Col. Anthony K. Podbielski Memorial Essay Contest, established and sponsored by Janice and Marvin Epstein and Dr. Joseph and Ruth Preminger.
Anthony K. Podbielski died on Feb. 3, 2000, at the age of 91. He had been a longtime member of the Polish American Historical Association and was devoted to the study of Polish American history. He wrote numerous monographs on the Polish heroes in the United States and elsewhere.
While alive, Podbielski underwrote a local General Pulaski Essay Contest and, with his son Thaddeus, authored the 75th anniversary history of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church of Bayonne, published in 1973. He was also very active in the Holocaust Committee.
Ruth Preminger said as a military leader, he helped liberate Nazi camps at the end of World War II, and eventually went on to marry a woman he met at one of the camps.
He was honored numerous times in Eastern Europe for assisting the victims of the war. He also received a plaque in Vienna for his helping the children there.
Preminger said the essay contest was established as a lasting tribute to a man who had helped keep the memory of the holocaust victims alive.
“Visual and audio learning experiences are the best ways for children to understand something, whether for a mathematical equation or a chemistry bond,” Turner wrote. “Rather than reading droning words in a textbook, children should see and hear experiences from World War II. Not only children, but adults should also keep informed and reminded of what seems to be so long ago.”
“Just because those who lived during the Holocaust will soon pass, that does not mean that the knowledge and understanding of the Holocaust must die with them.” – Rebecca Turner
“Just because those who lived during the Holocaust will soon pass, that does not mean that the knowledge and understanding of the Holocaust must die with them,” she wrote. “Yom Hashoah, April 21, 2009, is Holocaust Remembrance Day. It is a time when Jews get together to remember the Holocaust,” she wrote, saying many people can find their own ways to deal with the issue of the Holocaust. “In school, my history class read the book ‘Night’ by Elie Wiesel. It is a biography about the author’s personal experiences during the Holocaust when he was just a boy. Although he is now at the ripe age of 80, his book will live on forever.”
In addition to reading her essay at the memorial, which took place at Bayonne City Hall on April 19, Turner was also selected to read a poem that she wrote pertaining to Elie Wiesel’s book “Night.”