Holocaust survivor Helen Terris will talk about her personal experiences during the Holocaust during a virtual Kristallnacht commemoration at Congregation Beth Israel in Scotch Plains on Sunday, November 15, at 5 p.m. The program is sponsored by the synagogue’s Second/Third Generation Holocaust Survivors Group. It will be online at www.facebook.com/cbinj.org/.
Kristallnacht also is called the “Night of Broken Glass.” It refers to the violent attacks that the Nazis waged against Jews on November 9 and 10, 1938, throughout Germany, Austria, and parts of occupied Czechoslovakia. The name Kristallnacht comes from the broken glass that littered the streets after Jewish homes, schools, synagogues, and stores were damaged or destroyed. With Jews beaten, killed, or sent to concentration camps, Kristallnacht often is seen as the beginning of the Holocaust.
Helen Terris was born in 1935 in Lida, Poland. Her peaceful childhood changed in June 1941, when the Germans invaded Lida. Her father was taken at a round-up and murdered, leaving young Helen and her mother to survive alone. They endured many hardships and eventually found their way to the forest, where they joined the Bielski partisans in hiding and resisting the Nazis. The Russian army liberated them in 1944. (The 2008 movie “Defiance” was based on the true story of the Bielski partisans, who hid in the forests of Belarus and were the war’s largest and most successful group of Jewish resisters.)
After liberation, Helen spent five years in displaced persons camps, before coming to America with her mother at 14. She married, raised her two children in Ocean Township, and lives in Tinton Falls. Helen’s daughter, Rita Terris Geller, is a member of Congregation Beth Israel and a co-founder of its Second/Third Generation Holocaust Survivors Group.
The commemoration also will feature a musical presentation and Rabbi Howard Tilman and Cantor Matt Axelrod will chant memorial prayers.
For more information about the Kristallnacht commemoration, call (908) 889-1830.