Rene Lichtman, 78, of West Bloomfield survived the Holocaust as a hidden child in France. He is a founder and vice president of the World Federation of Jewish Child Survivors of the Holocaust and Descendants.
“Elie spoke at our conferences,” said Lichtman. “He was a concentration camp survivor as a young person. Our group were also child survivors — and we and Elie could empathize with each other. He was a leading voice and role model for us.
“I was extremely impressed that Elie was able to talk about oppression, intolerance, genocide and indifference — to universalize it and apply it to the slaughter in Bosnia and Rwanda, which is very important. He applied the term ‘never again’ to others, not just Jews.
“Elie said he liked to raise questions as a teacher, and he wondered if people really learned the lessons of the Holocaust,” said Lichtman. “I would agree with that.
“He was a moral conscience in terms of the right thing to do — that we should not be bystanders to hatred.
“Elie said, ‘Indifference was the greatest evil.’ I use this quote when I speak to groups at the Holocaust Memorial Center in Farmington Hills and at other places.
“The warning about indifference is an easy thing for people to grasp. It’s both universal and a Jewish concept,” said Lichtman.
Dr. Charles Silow of Huntington Woods, founder and president of CHAIM, the Children of Holocaust-Survivors Association In Michigan, said, “Elie was very inspirational to us second-generation survivors.
“We felt very close to him. He spoke from the soul, from the heart, talking about the Holocaust in ways no one dared talk about it. His honesty, his courage, the pain of what he experienced, the pain that our parents experienced — he was able to talk about in such an eloquent way. He changed everything. He made us aware.
“He’s our hero,” said Silow. “In fact, every time he came to Detroit, he made an effort to meet with CHAIM. We would sit down, for a half-hour or an hour; sometimes we would take him to the airport. It was such a pleasure to talk to someone who was so special.
“He was an amazing man who was a conscience for mankind. He said the world has to be a better place — that we can’t allow hatred, and we have to speak out and not be indifferent. He gave us a challenge to remember it and never to forget — and to make the world a better place. We take that challenge very seriously,” said Silow.
“He will be missed — but his words will always live on.” *
BY David Sachs | Senior Copy Editor