Holocaust survivor passes torch of responsibility in emotional ceremony

"When you don't confront evil, evil finds a way of pushing the boundaries beyond anything anyone thought possible," said Eve Kugler.

 Eitan Neishlos, representing the third generation of Holocaust survivors, together with first generation survivor Eve Kugler in London, at Jerusalem Post London Convention. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Eitan Neishlos, representing the third generation of Holocaust survivors, together with first generation survivor Eve Kugler in London, at Jerusalem Post London Convention.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

Four individuals with personal connections to the Holocaust participated in a moving and gripping panel discussion at the Jerusalem Post London Conference on Thursday.

Eitan Neishlos, a third-generation Holocaust survivor from Australia; Eve Kugler, a first-generation survivor from the United Kingdom; Carolin Hohnecker, a third-generation granddaughter of Nazi SS officers; and Nobuki Sugihara, son of Japanese diplomat Chiune Sugihara, who issued thousands of exit visas to the Jews of Kovno, Lithuania, discussed their personal circumstances and experiences.

All four will be participating in the March of the Living from Auschwitz to Birkenau on April 28. This year's March will focus on the importance of passing the torch of memory and responsibility from the survivors to the next generations. Jerusalem Post correspondent Zvika Klein moderated the discussion. 

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Immediately prior to the panel discussion, Eve Kugler addressed the audience, recounting her experiences in the Holocaust, warning that "When you don't confront evil, evil finds a way of pushing the boundaries beyond anything anyone thought possible. It didn't start with six million dead. It started with words. But it rose to more than six million very quickly from there."

Eitan Neishlos, president of the Neishlos Foundation, responded to Kugler's words by promising that "We will continue the message. We stand before you on behalf of the next generation, the third generation. We will light this candle, and we will take this flame of remembrance, and we will pass it down from generation to generation."

 Eve Kugler speaking at the House of Lords at the Jerusalem Post London Conference, March 31, 2022.  (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST) Eve Kugler speaking at the House of Lords at the Jerusalem Post London Conference, March 31, 2022. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

Carolin Hohnecker did not learn about her family's Nazi past until she was 24 and was shocked to learn of her family's involvement in the German army and the SS. Eve Kugler thanked Carolin for sharing her story and acknowledged the difficulty and pain it caused her. Carolin responded, saying, "This means so much to me, and I think this is the only thing I can do, with my family background – to speak about it and take the responsibility and find the words my forefathers never found." Hohnecker is a member of the March of Life, an organization founded in Germany by descendants of the Nazis dedicated to commemorating the Holocaust and fighting antisemitism.

Moderator Zvika Klein next turned to Nobuki Sugihara, son of the legendary Chiune Sugihara, who said he did not learn of his father's heroic actions in World War II until he was nineteen years old. Sugihara explained how his father went against his superiors' wishes and issued the visas, which saved the lives of thousands of Jewish people. He himself studied at the Hebrew University and lived in Israel for a number of years. 

Klein next asked Carolin Hohnecker if antisemitism was returning to Europe and Germany. She replied that it most certainly has reappeared and noted that the same indifference to antisemitism that existed 80 years ago has returned. 

At the conclusion of the panel discussion, Eitan Neishlos recalled his grandmother's experiences growing up as a child in Belarus during the Holocaust and how she was saved by the Chodosevitch family, a Christian family who hid her from the Nazis, who themselves were later murdered by the Germans. He noted the unique nature of the panel, saying, "It's remarkable that we have this intergenerational panel here today, and that that we've all come together here in London. I want to applaud every one of you for your courage to come together to have this conversation and especially Carolin for your very upstanding bravery here today."

Ahead of the panel, UK March of the Living Founder & Chair Scott Saunders spoke about the March that will take place after three years due to COVID: "In just under four weeks, about 2000 people in Poland will join the International March of the Living. It will be a gathering that will be somber as our lessons are from the past, yet here in the present, we are acutely aware of the situation across the border in Ukraine."