By Inna Rogatchi
Recently, the world commemorated Yom HaShoah, the date very special in both Jewish and non-Jewish calendars. The Day of the Holocaust Heroes and Martyrs, as it is known in Israel, is commemorated in a big-scale in Israel and in many places in the world as the Day of Bravery and Heroism, and its date is defined by the start of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in 1943, the remarkable demonstration of decency and courage by the people who were forcibly and brutally deprived of everything, including their right to live.
At this special day this year, the leading London and the UK Western Marble Arch Synagogue known widely as the ‘World’s Jewry’s London Address’, and also as the Synagogue of Lord Rabbi Sacks ( where he is still administrating at the High Holiday annually), has organised a remarkable commemoration designed by Rabbi Lionel Rosenfeld and executed by him and his talented and devoted team brilliantly.
It was an Evening of Prayer, Poetry, Music and Film that included incredibly beautiful and very masterly performed Choral Memorial Service by the famed Shabbaton Choir conducted by Stephen Levey. Shabbaton Choir has been established by Rabbi Lionel Rosenfeld, an extraordinary man, a great Rabbi, and a very gifted musician, more than 25 years ago. The Choir has an array of well-known records, including many with participation of Lord Rabbi Sacks as a deep and magnetic narrator. Rabbi Lionel Rosenfeld had been singing as an extraordinary soloist of the Shabbaton on that very memorable evening of May 4th, 2016.
His Honour Judge Barrington Black, a prominent member of the Western Marble Arch Synagogue Congregation, had been reading Memorial Tribute written by Lord Rabbi Sacks. Some excerpt from this profound text says: “Today we remember what happens when hate takes hold of the human heart and turns it to stone. (…) Today we remember how low humanity can sink when it demonizes others and sees them as less than human; when it chooses the way of death, not the path of life; when it forgets that those who are not in our image are none the less in God’s image (…). And we pay tribute to the memory of the heroes who saved lives, often at the risk of their own, and who taught us how in the darkest night we can light a candle of hope”.
The Six Candles in memory of the Six Million annihilated during the Holocaust were lit by the prominent members of the Western Marble Arch Synagogue Congregation and the guests of the ceremony. Everyone from the people on that honouring mission that night has family connection to the Holocaust: Harry Heber who had been just seven years old when his family of successful entrepreneurs had been forced away from their business, home and city of Innsbruck by the Nazis. Harry and his sister were lucky to get on the second train of the Kindertransport from Vienna to the UK. The children’s parents did manage to get to the UK and to re-unite with their children just three days before the war was broke in; Caroline and her son Zack Esdaile in honour and memory of Caroline’s father Simon Reiss whose life was saved by his family by sending him to London on the Kindertransport in 1939, but whose father, the leader of the Berlin Jewish community, was shot by the Nazis in 1943. Simon Reiss had been the Honorary Lifelong president of the Yad Vashem UK Foundation and president and life- long president of the Western Marble Arch Synagogue in London; Dr Inna Rogatchi was lighting the third candle on behalf of her family whose several members including famous violinist Alma Rose of the Rose-Mahler musical dynasty had been murdered in Auschwitz. Dr Rogatchi is specialising in her scholarly, literally and artistic work on Holocaust, post-Holocaust and its legacy and is awarded for that by many international awards.
The fourth candle was lit by Dr Simon Hochhauser, past president of the United Synagogue and the member of the Shabbaton Choir. Dr Hochhauser’s aunts and uncles. along with 90% of his parents’ family, were murdered in Auschwitz. His parents who did survive, Lilian and Victor Hochhauser, has become a legendary musical impresarios in the UK and world-wide. The Fifth candle was lit by Janice Serlin in memory of 63 members of her family murdered by the Nazis. The Sixth candle was lit by a 14-year old Alex Black, the grandson of the Judge Black who did lead the candle-lighting ceremony. In his introduction, Rabbi Lionel Rosenfeld said: “Alex is lighting to represent the generation that will not really get to know any Holocaust Survivors but need to know their stories and what they survived, so as to ensure it does not happen again, anywhere”.
During the Memorial Prayer Service, the Ark containing the Synagogue’s Torahs, was opened and closed by the artist Michael Rogatchi and prominent member of the congregation Paul Faiman.
After the Kaddish was said by all present, the Shabbaton Choir performed Oseh Shalom, words of hope that concludes prayer services, on the music written on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the State of Israel by Stephen Levey. That great performance is so popular that it has over 2, 7 million people who had watched it via YouTube by the date. Hatikvah, the Israel National Anthem had been sung by everybody present at the beautiful hall of the Western Marble Arch Synagogue that evening.
Dr Inna Rogatchi had presented her internationally acclaimed film The Lessons of Survival. Conversation with Simon Wiesenthal as a part of that memorable ceremony. She was telling about the history of her and her husband Michael’s years of friendship with Simon Wiesenthal and the background of her film. Inna said in her introductory remarks: “There is no coincidence that Yom HaShoah is commemorated at the date of the beginning of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. The very intention, the very thought about articulated resistance, even morale one, was a sign of incredible effort demonstrated by the people who has become the victims of the horrendous crime in theirs strive for decency. In this film, Simon Wiesenthal, an extraordinary figure of our times, is speaking to each of us, personally, and his main topic as it always was in his long and very uneasy life is precisely this: a decency of a human being against and despite a cruel force of evil”.
Artist Michael Rogatchi and The Rogatchi Foundation did not come to their London friends empty-handed. They had awarded the Synagogue, the Congregation and its leadership with three special works of art. With the Michael’s new original art work called No Place for Wagner the Rogatchis and their Foundation awarded the Singing Rabbi Lionel Rosenfeld for his outstanding services for the public. Rabbi Rosenfeld is known not only because of his outstanding talent and his Shabbaton Choir, but also because of his openness, fair-mindness and the very wide outreach of his vision and activities. He and his Assistant Rabi Sam Taylor are organizing the regular services for growing number Sefard observant Jews from France in London. He maintains a good co-operation with Chabad representatives in London, as well. Every Jew from any corner of the world always feels at home at this grand but truly friendly Synagogue, with Rabbi Rosenfeld and his wife Natalie, the same as the wife of Assistant Rabbi Emma Taylor, and the Synagogue Administrator Gina Drew-Davis, always extending their warm welcome to everyone. This is a very hard currency in the modern world, indeed.
Michael’s other original art work called Kiddush had been awarded to Stanley Simmonds, Chairman of this exemplary community, for his devotion, never failing co-operation, and a high spirit he helps to maintain at the heart of the Jewish life in the central London for so many years.
But the crown of the evening was the moment when Michael and Inna Rogatchi from behalf of The Rogatchi Foundation awarded the Western Marble Arch Synagogue and Congregation with a very special gift, the authored print of the Pat Mercer Hutchen’s famous Rabbi Weiss art work, signed by Pat. In their speech, Inna and Michael Rogatchi said: “This is a very special work by a very special person, a great artist, our dear and close friend Pat Hutchens. She passed away three years ago, but we all are feeling as if it has never happened and as if Pat is still among us – such strong was the energy of that outstanding woman. The energy of love. Her love for her husband, American and Jewish hero and legend Brigadier General ( Ret) James M. Hutchens, for her great family, for the Jewish people, and for the State of Israel. We called Pat ‘a lioness’ whose passion – and understanding – of Jewish people and Jewish history was unprecedented. And very productive, too.
Pat’s personal and artistic contribution in our all’ memory of the Holocaust, its victims and its heroes, is unique. She recreated by the artistic means the Auschwitz Album, the only existing photographic evidence of the Nazi atrocities at their biggest ‘factory of death’. While recreating the photos and translating it into a new pieces of art, Pat has added to each of her works from this series some symbol, would it be enlarged star of David as it is at the Rabbi Weiss portrait, or pink bow for the poor girl who would be led into the crematorium minutes after the photo had been taken, or a book of prayer for the people who were deprived of it.
I remember vividly as Pat’s husband, great and brave general Jim Hutchens was telling us on the Pat’s work on this remarkable series: “Pat is sitting the whole day is her studio downstairs, painting and crying, but painting again”.
Pat also has made comments to all of her works from The Auschwitz Album Re-Visited, and those comments, laconic, strong and passionate, has become her legacy along with the images she has created and re-created thus returning those very concrete , real people who were exterminated in Auschwitz , back to life.
Today, Rabbi Weiss and many those whom Pat Hutchens did paint back to life, with love and compassion, are among us. And we would like to donate this very dear to us print, signed by our beloved friend, who did sign her print very rarely, to your beautiful Synagogue and your great Congregation in memory of this day, of the Yom HaShoah Commemoration in 2016, that you all have conceived and conducted with such love and devotion, so beautifully and finely. We know that Pat would love to have the one of her best works to be with you all for good”.
There had not been a single person among the large audience with dry eyes on that evening. After the ceremony, people started to come to the podium on which the Pat’s work had been placed, in order to seeing it in more detail. They all were very moved, indeed, and many people were telling about it.
The fact that the Pat’s very moving art work had depicted the real person, the real Rabbi Weiss from Hungary who had been murdered in Auschwitz along with his almost entire town, had a very profound effect on the people gathered that evening in London, more than 70 years on that horror that still stays with us firmly.
Consequently, the portrait of Rabbi Weiss had been moved to the Hall of the Western Marble Arch Synagogue where it had been placed on the most visible spot being there throughout the Shabbat. Hundreds of people were seeing it during the Kiddush services, and many people have been asking about this work and that man.
Inna and Michael Rogatchi also were telling in great detail the story of the original Auschwitz Album which is at the Yad Vashem collection nowadays, and the story behind the Pat Mercer Hutchens’s idea and work on her incredible art series The Auschwitz Album Re-Visited. We were telling people also about the exhibitions of the series in Poland, nearby the Auschwitz and in Ukraine, just on the eve of the breaking the conflict there which both had have an extraordinary events not only of artistic, but also of public life at the both places. We were telling on how young people in Poland and Ukraine were reacting to these art works, and what a deep effect it had had on them.
We were telling people in London, and many guests gathered there for the Yom HaShoah commemoration, on the Hutchens family and their life-long passionate love for Israel and Jewish people, and many outstanding deeds that both Pat and Jim and their children had carried on in their self-inflicted mission of that ultimate love.
People in London were extremely interested in all that; they were asking on where the collection of The Auschwitz Album Re-Visited originals is now, and what would be its destiny. It was very good to seeing that people can see the value of the Pat’s work and appreciate its meaning for us and the future generations.
Seeing people’s reaction, their eyes, we felt and knew that our Pat is very near. That her great soul is with us. And we remembered her enlightening smile with a happiness of the Presence.