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International Holocaust Remembrance Day

January 27, 2015

The UN General Assembly designated January 27—the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau—as International Holocaust Remembrance Day.  On this annual day of commemoration, the UN urges every member state to honor the victims of the Nazi era and to develop educational programs to help prevent future genocides.

In America, the US Holocaust Memorial Museum hosts an extensive collection of exhibits, films, and educational resources to support the UN’s efforts.  In Britain, Stephen Fry is the latest of many artists to interview holocaust survivors and keep their memories alive at the English Holocaust Memorial Day Trust website.

JWA features many stories of the Holocaust era, those who were lost, those who survived, and those who aided people in peril.  Some are famous, like Anne Frank, Dr. Ruth Westheimer, and Regina Jonas.   Others (like Vladka Meed, Magda Altman Schaloum, and Irena Sendler) have not yet become household names.  Hannelore Marx's story, also less well known, shows how she grappled with the impact of the Holocaust over a lifetime.

Hannelore Kahn was born in Stuttgart, Germany on August 19, 1922 to parents Max and Hilda Kahn.  She grew up with brother Heinz and lived in Stuttgart until her deportation to the Riga Ghetto on November 27, 1941.  Hannelore was moved to the Stutthof concentration camp (one of the “forgotten camps”) in August 1944.  Her parents were killed in Latvia.  Russian troops liberated her in May 1945.  It took six months for Hannelore to finally return to Stuttgart where she met Victor Marx, whose wife and child had died in a concentration camp.

Hannelore and Victor were married on November 25th 1945.  They boarded the SS Marine Flasher troop carrier and landed in New York harbor.  They chose to live in Easton, PA because employment opportunities there were better than in New York City at the time.

Although they were free, life in America was a struggle financially.  When her son Larry was born in January 1947, the Marxes moved to Manhattan where Hannelore earned a living by cleaning apartments and Victor was an elevator operator on Fifth Avenue.  Despite their financial burdens, Hannelore and Victor drew strength from their endless love for each other and their only son.  Victor was able to see his son get married, but passed away in 1984.

Now a widow, Hannelore had to learn how to handle day-to-day financial responsibilities on her own.  To make ends meet Hannelore took two buses each day to work in a monogram shop in the Bronx.

A chance encounter with a language arts teacher in her Washington Heights neighborhood led Hannelore to begin lecturing to middle-school students, sharing her story with those who knew nothing about the horrors of World War II.  It was Peter Miner, the teacher, who pressed Hannelore to publish her memoir From Despair to Happiness so that more people could learn of her story.

Now Hannelore is 92 and still lives in Washington Heights, in the same apartment she shared with her beloved Victor.  Her Holocaust memoir was published in December 2014, a week after she attended her grandson Evan’s wedding.

Peter Miner writes of Hannelore’s book, “The author really tells three stories: the story of a girl, happily growing up in pre-Nazi Germany; the story, of course, of a prisoner of the genocidal Nazi regime; and, finally, the story of a young woman, newly liberated from the madness of her brutal captivity, left with…nothing, who now had to somehow go on and create a life for herself.  I would add that Hannelore’s memoir includes a wonderful love story that should inspire and even instruct anyone who has chosen to tackle life’s challenges with a partner.”  The net proceeds from Hannelore’s book are being donated to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington DC.

Events in your area to observe Holocaust Remembrance Day can be found at this link.

Sources: From Despair to Happiness, HanneloreMarx.com; US Holocaust Memorial Museum; Holocaust Memorial Day Trust.

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Hannelore Marx
Full image
Hannelore Marx.
Courtesy of Larry Marx.

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "International Holocaust Remembrance Day." (Viewed on December 15, 2018) <https://jwa.org/thisweek/jan/27/2015/international-holocaust-remembrance-day>.

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