2011 Holocaust Memorial Project

May 02, 2011

Contact: Charles Stewart @ 310-342-1070

Betty Hyatt, a 76 year-old American who lives in Los Angeles in the 47th District was born to Jewish parents and was a child when her family fled the Nazi invasion of Belgium. She was interviewed for the Legislature's 2011 Holocaust Memorial Project about her memories of the Holocaust by Morgan Ball, a 16 year-old junior. Their dialogue was filmed by Ashanti Stewart, a 15 year-old sophomore. The girls are neighbors and attend Culver City High, also in my District.

Morgan and Ashanti were aware of the Holocaust from having been assigned to read The Diary of Ann Frank in school. But they felt that almost seemed like a folk tale from long ago. They were astounded to speak with a real Holocaust survivor whose father died at Auschwitz and who spent her childhood in hiding from the Nazi collaborators in France's Vichy regime. She became a child-Resistance fighter, carrying secret messages for the Allies before relatives brought her to New York.

The girls were most impressed by the fact that although Betty Hyatt's family was betrayed time and again to the Nazis, she refuses to dwell on the cruelty she witnessed, emphasizing instead that her family survived because of the decency and kindness of ordinary people who hid them, fed them, and helped them escape to freedom here in America.

But there is another side of this particular Holocaust story that I must mention. I wanted to include in this Memorial Project the memories of some of the people of color who fought against the Nazis and helped liberate those persecuted during the Holocaust.

So my office reached out to the veterans of the Jackie Robinson American Legion Post 252 in my District. Although there are few American soldiers left who served during World War II, we did talk to one at Post 252: Mr. Raymond Guillory.

Like many young American men, when Pearl Harbor was bombed, he stepped up and enlisted in the army to defend his country and fight the Japanese invaders and their Nazi allies who claimed that, as a black man, he was inferior to members of the Master Race.

But there was a lingering sadness in the eyes of Raymond Guillory as he spoke, and he would not be interviewed because he did not feel his story was worthy of inclusion in this Project. But I do.

Although he enlisted to fight, he never saw combat. At that time, the U.S. military was largely segregated. Although a handful of African American soldiers fought heroically in World War II, and some have been honored, the vast majority could not do so because few units of Black troops were allowed to form, and there were few black officers to command segregated troops.

So most African American G.I.s spent their time during World War II serving the needs of white troops. Raymond Guillory said that he was sent abroad hoping to fight, but in the service he was expected to cook and clean and run errands for white soldiers – typical work, in those days, for African American citizens in or out of uniform. He served honorably, and did work that needed doing, but he never saw combat.

So let us memorialize the Holocaust: to mourn the victims, to honor the liberators, and to remember never, never to allow it to happen again. But let us also remember, in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., that An injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. Racism leaves victims in its wake whose wounds we may not see or know, but whose pain and loss is no less real – until we, you and I, decide that discrimination against any human being is a reality we will not condone or tolerate.