In honor of Yom HaShoah and Skokie’s celebration of Arbor Day, the Village of Skokie joined ICJA on Monday to plant a sapling tree with roots in the Nazi concentration camp, Terezin.
The original tree was smuggled into the Czechoslovakia camp in 1943 by a sympathetic guard and then planted on Tu B’Shvat by teacher Irma Lauscher, who held secret classes for her imprisoned students. The group managed to water the tree from their meager rations until it reached 5-ft. at the time of liberation. Today, 600 saplings of that maple tree have been replanted.
One of those saplings was brought to Chicago as a gift JUF from the Terezin Memorial. It was nurtured by the Chicago Botanic Garden until the Illinois Holocaust Memorial Museum & Education Center was ready to plant it on their new campus. This year, three saplings from that tree were planted on the grounds of Skokie’s three high schools: Niles North, Niles West and ICJA.
Attending the ICJA ceremony were Skokie’s Mayor George Van Dusen and Michael Lorge, Corporation Council. Dede Harris, a docent and board member of the Illinois Holocaust Museum, spoke about the Terezin tree and presented her newly released children’s book on the tree’s story. The book is available at the Museum book store.
Following that program, students heard the incredible, courageous story of local survivor Estelle Laughlin, who shared her memories of life in the Warsaw Ghetto, the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, her harrowing survival in the death and labor camps and liberation. We are grateful to Mrs. Laughlin for sharing her story and to parent Miki Schreiber, a docent at the Illinois Holocaust Museum, who helped us secure our speaker.
Our Yom HaShoah program is generously sponsored in memory of Rabbi Shlomo Hirsch Koller, Hy”d and his sister Etka Koller-Cykornik, Hy”d, by Sharon and Seymour Gertz and the estate of Margalit bat Rav Shilem Gertz z”l .