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Early on in a Wednesday night gala at the Beverly Hilton, Steven Spielberg’s face flickered onto the presentation screens to deliver remarks remotely. The director was not commenting on his recent crusade against streaming services, however, but a cause that he has been dedicated to for much longer — Holocaust history and remembrance.
“The terrible truths of the Holocaust must never be forgotten and must forever shape the human experience, bending it toward humanity,” said the director, who has been involved in the preservation of Holocaust history since the release of Schindler’s List in 1993. “Terrible truths” and the lessons they could teach were front and center at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s annual Los Angeles dinner.
The dinner raised more than $1.2 million for the Washington-based museum’s operations and their global campaigns to combat anti-Semitism, Holocaust denial and genocide.
Guests of honor at the event included a group of Holocaust survivors who accepted the museum’s 2018 Elie Wiesel Award, which was dedicated to every person who survived Nazi persecution. Museum regional director Marla Abraham said that though the Elie Wiesel Award is typically dedicated to one person, the aging population of survivors inspired the museum to recognize all of them.
“We’re looking at this generation of survivors disappearing, so we wanted to take this moment to pause, acknowledge who they are and what they did and promise to them that we’re still here and we’re going to carry on,” Abraham told The Hollywood Reporter.
Trudie Stroebel, who was forced out of her family home in Ukraine by the Nazi regime at age 4, said that she had been looking forward to the dinner for weeks. “I feel so honored to be here. When I received that invitation from the Washington, D.C. Holocaust museum, I was just so grateful. I’ve been excited since I received the invitation!” she told THR.
Host Lisa Edelstein opened the dinner with a grim reminder of the modern iterations of these: “We live in troubled times, you just have to read the headlines to understand that,” she said, referring to anti-Semitic chants at the 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the 2018 mass shooting in a Pittsburgh synagogue. “Memory protects us and must be protected.”
Survivor David Wiener performed a traditional blessing of bread before dinner was served (kosher options included), and museum director Sara J. Bloomfield hosted a conversation with Wendy Lower, a historian based at Claremont McKenna College.
Other honorees included Los Angeles philanthropists Linda and Tony Rubin and Sylvie and Mark Deutsch, who accepted leadership awards from the museum.
Tony Rubin emphasized the museum’s ongoing mission in his acceptance remarks. “We recognize that the Holocaust is not a story of once upon a time a long time ago. No, the Holocaust is a living, breathing story about human dignity and man’s inhumanity to man,” he said. “We cannot underestimate the power of hateful speech and dangerous rhetoric towards innocent people or groups.”
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