Maricopa Church of Celebration hosted a viewing of an evocative InMaricopa interview with Holocaust survivor Lea Stockhammer this morning.
Dozens of locals filled a lecture room in the Maricopa Library and Cultural Center.
The 34-minute interview InMaricopa first published last year expanded on Stockhammer’s experience as a 5-year-old Jewish child in Yugoslavia during World War II.
“One day, somebody knocked on our door,” she said, sharing an early memory of the war. “It was people in uniforms. They came inside and they put yellow bands with the Jewish star on our arms and we were told that we could not take it off.”
Recounting her experience, Stockhammer spoke about her 13 months in Kruščica and Loborgrad, concentration camps in present-day Bosnia and Croatia. In 1942, a Catholic priest saved her from transfer to the Nazis’ deadliest and most infamous camp, Auschwitz.
By the war’s end, Stockhammer was the only surviving member of her immediate family.
Although the 87-year-old Maricopa resident could not attend due to the excessive heat warning this week, her daughter, Ruth Stockhammer, answered questions on her behalf from the audience. She touched on antisemitism and censorship, issues that pervade to this day.
“Before he died, my father would say, ‘I can’t believe I’m seeing this happening again,’” the younger Stockhammer recounted from her late father, also a Holocaust survivor. “Those were his words about a month before he died. It’s happening again.”
Event organizer Effie Gross noted the importance of sharing stories like this one.
“It’s important that we don’t forget,” Gross said. “We can pass stories of those experiences down to our children and grandchildren that show the harm of things like antisemitism.”
Maricopa Church of Celebration Pastor Ben Gores shared a prayer at the end of the event, noting the importance of remembering even the most painful events in life.
“We have the opportunity to remember that the stories we read in the pages of our history books happened to real people,” Gores said. “Their stories and their experiences need to carried on … so that we can avoid repeating the mistakes of the past.”