A play by a Holocaust survivor will be performed for the first time
Months before the Russian invasion, long-time islander Andrea Bolender traveled to Ukraine to visit Babi Yar, the ravine outside kyiv where on September 29-30, 1941, German Nazis massacred 33,771 Jews.
Bolender, who is president of the Nassau County Holocaust Memorial & Tolerance Center in Glen Cove, was part of a US delegation to the site.
Among those present at the ceremonies was Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, himself a Jew.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February and the history of the Holocaust both underscore the importance of a concert the memorial center will host on April 20 at Carnegie Hall titled “Hymns of Auschwitz,” said said Bolender. The concert is related to Holocaust Remembrance Day. Special for her is a play, written in 1947 by Michel Assael, survivor of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp, entitled “Auschwitz Symphonic Poem”. It will be played for the first time.
Remembrance of the Holocaust
Founded over 25 years ago, the Nassau County Holocaust Memorial & Tolerance Center is located on the grounds of the Welwyn Reservation, 100 Crescent Beach Rd., Glen Cove. It is open all year round, weekdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 4 p.m. Visit the museum’s website at: www.hmtcli.org.
The concert, titled “Hymns from Auschwitz,” will take place April 20 at 8 p.m. at the Stern Auditorium-Perelman Stage at Carnegie Hall. The piece composed by Holocaust survivor Michel Assael will make up the last half hour of the concert. Tickets are available at www.carnegiehall.org.
The piece was discovered by Dr. Joe Halio, a leader of the Sephardic Greek Jewish community on Long Island. His family, like Assael’s, was once from Salonika, Greece. Assael’s daughter, Debbie, is a Broadway musician. Halio signed the previously unknown symphonic piece to the museum – and to the performance. One of Halio’s patients was Bolender’s mother, Ruth.
The concert, presented in collaboration with the Turkish American Arts Society of New York, will feature the New Manhattan Sinfonietta, Turkish pianist Renan Koen and renowned Turkish maestro Gurer Aykal. A longtime supporter of the Holocaust center, Martin Elias, is the winner.
“We say, ‘Never again,’ Bolender said, “and yet we see these things happening again. Our museum is to remember the Holocaust, to fight anti-Semitism, to fight prejudice and all manifestations of hatred. However, it happens in real time, it happens live, before our eyes… We can see it. And so what does it mean when we say ‘never again’. It’s happening now.”
“The images from Ukraine,” said Meryl Menashe, a US Holocaust Memorial Museum fellow and historian at the Glen Cove museum. “All you have to do is turn them black and white and they look the same since the Holocaust. That’s why we need to raise awareness, why we need to keep awareness.”
Menashe said his own DNA is linked to Lviv, Ukraine, where his father and grandfather live. Her stepfather was held prisoner in Auschwitz-Birkenau.
Bolender is one of four children of a Holocaust survivor. His father, Benek Bolender, from Czyzewo, Poland, was also in Auschwitz-Birkenau – number 86786, tattooed on his arm by the Nazis when he was 14, remained until his death in 1999.
Benek Bolender’s mother, sister and two brothers were all killed in Auschwitz. Her father was shot before her family was taken away.
Koen says what makes this original Assael manuscript haunting is that it captures that horror, that pain.
“It’s his memories of Auschwitz, when he was part of the music in Auschwitz as people went to the gas chambers, and there are those dark memories as well,” she said. “Listeners will be emotionally moved, for sure. They’ll think about it, they’ll feel this, all these disturbing emotions.”
“Music lives forever,” Bolender said. “Art lives forever. And memories live forever through art, through music, and through the stories we tell. Survivors tell the story and bear witness. Survivors pass on… If we forget them , their stories will not live at all.
“We can never forget them… That’s why this concert is important.