Lost but not Forgotten: 'Our Town' is a conference
for educators, students, and the public. In a series of lectures,
interactive workshops, and presentations, as well as exhibits, music,
and dance programs, this conference will explore the nature of prejudice
and hatred when taken to their ultimate extremes. More than half
a century after the event, we are the bridge between the past and
the future, charged with a two-fold mission: to remember the human
tragedies of the Holocaust and to teach them to our children, so
that future generations will be educated in appreciating diversity
and hereby guard against a repetition of such heinous crimes against
Beyond remembering the human tragedies, we also wish to recall and retrieve the beauty of the communities lost, communities in many ways like our own, with customs and traditions handed down from generation to generation. A very important link to the past for survivors of the Shoah is the remembrance of those people and things that were very dear to them their family, friends, neighbors, community leaders, their homes, schools, and synagogues. A very important link from us to survivors is that we hold the very same things dear which they lost, but we take them for granted. Yet can we take for granted that our families, homes, neighborhoods, and communities will always be here, undisturbed, with us living in peace? Recent cross-burnings, antisemitic acts, lynchings, and a legal and social backlash to affirmative action tell us that we cannot lull ourselves into a false sense of security or live into the day apathetically for, as the Holocaust and other genocides have shown us, hatred is not rational. It can strike at any time, anywhere.
By learning about the lost cultures of the German Jews, the East European shtetl, the Romanian and Austro/Hungarian Jews, the French and Italian Jews, we will on the one hand help restore a precious world that no longer exists and at the same time become aware of what factors contributed to its destruction.
One such place is Luboml, situated in the province of Volhynia, in the Ukraine. An exhibition entitled, Remembering Luboml Images of a Jewish Community, contracted by The Tennessee Holocaust Commission for four Tennessee cities in the Spring of 2001, will be at the Carolyn P. Brown Memorial University Center at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville from March 27 - April 19, 2001. This exhibition, created by the Aaron Ziegelman Foundation, will be the focus of our Holocaust Conference.
The Jewish community of Luboml, dating to the fourteenth century, was one of the oldest in Poland. Located in the Russian empire before World War I, the town became a part of the Second Polish Republic following the war. Jews comprised an overwhelming majority of the town's population 91.3 percent according to the 1921 census. Ukrainians and Poles made up the remainder. By the 1930s, Libivne (as the town was called in Yiddish) had a vibrant community of at least 4,000 Jews. Yiddish was the language of home and daily life, though Jews also commonly spoke Polish and Ukrainian in business dealings and other interactions with their gentile neighbors.
The Nazis took control of Luboml in June 1941. After a few months, two ghettos were established. Periodically the Germans assembled groups of 300 or 400 Jews and massacred them. Jewish life in Luboml came to an abrupt end in October 1942 when the Germans murdered almost all of the town's remaining Jews. An estimated 8,000 Jews from Luboml and the surrounding area were exterminated. Only 51 residents survived the Holocaust.
Luboml is just one example among thousands with a similar fate. Those who survived keep the memory alive. There is a Yizkor Book of Luboml, available also in English. Many other survivors have written about their towns, Yaffa Eliach has just published a gigantic, 900-page history of her shtetl of Eishyshok. She is currently also recreating her town in Israel. There are excellent histories of the Jews of Poland and Lithuania, books and videos on wooden synagogues unique to that part of Eastern Europe, touching books of photographs by such artists as Roman Vishniac, and numerous stories and teachings on and by Hasidim whose founder, the Baal Shem Tov, came from that region.
The three-day Holocaust Conference will attempt to restore some of these images through the Luboml exhibition, lectures, workshops, photo and philatelic exhibitions, films, song, dance, poetry, and a book exhibition. Some events will be integral to the conference while others will occur before and after the conference. The earliest event is happening in February, the final event will be the community-wide Yom HaShoah commemoration which takes place every year.