GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Wednesday, Jan. 27, marks Holocaust Memorial Day, also known as International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
It's day designed to commemorate the tragedy of the Holocaust, a genocide that killed more than 6 million Jews and 11 million others during World War II.
For Grand Rapids native Linda Pestka, Holocaust Memorial Day is a somber but important reminder of how much still needs to be done to make sure nothing like the Holocaust ever happens again.
As the daughter of a Holocaust survivor, it's a responsibility she takes very seriously.
Pestka's father, Henry Pestka, was one of the few in his family to survive the Holocaust. After the liberation of concentration camps, he came to the United States, eventually settling in Grand Rapids without a penny to his name.
He built a life for him and his family, becoming a successful real estate developer and pillar within the community. He died in 2013 at the age of 93.
Linda Pestka is a board member at the Jewish Federation of Grand Rapids. She said she feels a responsibility to her father to continue telling his story and the story of those who suffered through the Holocaust.
"Since so many people who were in the Holocaust are now deceased, it is really now the responsibility of children of survivors like myself to keep bringing that message out. That 'yes, this did really happen,'" Pestka said.
Pestka is alarmed by the amount of misinformation claiming the Holocaust was exaggerated or never happened. She said it shows why there needs to be more education and awareness, to make sure the coming generations know the grim truth and do everything in their power to avoid repeating history.
The theme for this year's Holocaust Memorial Day is "Bringing Light to Darkness."
Pestka said she has been saddened by the rising incidents of anti-Semitism and hate around the world, calling it a somber reminder that more work needs to be done.
"What we do makes a difference and how we choose our own behaviors," she said. "So to me, when I hear about those things...we need to do more."
The Jewish Federation of Grand Rapids is unable to host any major programs this year due to the pandemic.
To learn more and get involved in the Federation's mission, visit their website at www.jewishgrandrapids.org.
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