Heroes of the Holocaust are not only those who died in that great inhumanity. Survivors who have gone on to endure thousands of nights in recalled nightmare have articulated against the dark side and championed what is good in humankind. In their selflessness, they have shown that the cancer that was Adolf Hitler and his followers was, like all malignancy, a speck that overwhelmed the much greater good health of the body that is the world, the person.
In this part of the earth, in the northeastern section of the United States, one such Holocaust survivor who offered continuing smiles and hope for children in particular, has just passed, at age 90 after 10 years of yet another undeserved confinement as a victim of Alzheimer’s.
Georgine Hyde was an Auschwitz internee, who upon leaving the death camps where her parents and sister were murdered, spent a lifetime of compassion and direct energy in educating children and adults against evil and emphasizing what is good in humankind. She was on the East Ramapo School Board for 36 years, serving as president most of that time and also as chief of the New York Stare School Boards Association. In 2005, Mrs. Hyde was specifically targeted for defeat when district control was assumed by bloc vote in the growing ultra-Orthodox Hasidic community. That this Holocaust survivor, this woman of peace and advocacy for all people, regardless of religion or background, should be pushed aside by one persuasion was ironic. Most unsettling, most insulting was that she was termed anti-Semitic because she opposed the loss of mixed views on a public school board. (The district has fired many teachers and other staff, cut programs and has been criticized for improving transportation and special education placements for the private school community.)
Imagine terming a Holocaust survivor anti-Semitic.
Even after her defeat, Mrs. Hyde continued to turn the degradation of her camp confinement into hope for the future, speaking to children and adults about her life, the Holocaust and other mass murders in the world.
Survivors of the Nazis fanned out all over the world, and many communities were blessed to have Georgina Hydes among them, “gute mentsh” (good people) who kept memorial candles lit for those killed by underscoring what is truly uplifting and promising in humankind. In the garden of evil, flowers from God.
The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org.