The mission of Wreaths Across America is to remember, honor, and teach and we’re sharing some of the precious moments Holocaust Survivor Luna Kaufman has spent with us reminiscing about some of her life’s stories and grand accomplishments. Luna's Life of Tolerance, Understanding, and Peace; A Gift to Us All will be presented over the coming months in featured blog posts. Luna and World War II liberator Thurman Pace will remember their experiences of World War II and the Holocaust together. We'll share Luna's memories of her work with the Liberation Monument in honor of its creator Natan Rapoport and WW II Liberators, and her efforts to foster greater understanding and peace, particularly in Jewish-Christian relations.
“Freedom is a fragile thing and is never more than one generation away from extinction. It is not ours by inheritance; it must be fought for and defended constantly by each generation, for it comes only once to a people. Those who have known freedom and then lost it have never known it again.” ~ Gov. Ronald Reagan-January 5, 1967
The mission of Wreaths Across America is to remember our fallen heroes, honor those who serve and teach younger generations the value of freedom. That last mission objective may be the most difficult goal to achieve.
Today, in a pop-culture society driven by instant communication, a barrage of media content with mixed messages, and a constant desire for entertainment, it is a challenge to compete for the attention of younger generations. It’s an even tougher sell when information to impart from lessons learned happened over seventy-five years ago.
A history lesson conjures up thoughts of boredom and irrelevance. After all, that was “back then,” not today. Even worse, to fully grasp the trials and tribulations of our nation’s founding and defense of freedom requires understanding not just of historical facts but ideologies as well, both political and religious.
Until freedom is taken away what frame of reference would younger generations, have today for appreciating its value and comprehending the crushing personal sacrifices made over the course of our history to protect “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”? Until challenged by death the precious and ephemeral gift of life is often not fully appreciated.
This nation’s future of peace, unity, and “justice for all” requires knowledge and understanding of our past conflicts, how they got started, how they escalated and how they are resolved.
Rudyard Kipling once wrote, “If history were told in the form of stories it would never be forgotten.”
This is the story of one Holocaust survivor and her life-long mission to foster a culture of peace through education, advocacy, and mutual respect.
Luna Kaufman knows first hand the heartache and despair that is war. At just twelve years old she was victimized by and witnessed the barbaric atrocities of which humankind is capable when driven by blind hatred and ignorance. Luna Kaufman is a survivor of the Holocaust of World War II, yet she is not a bitter woman. Quite the opposite in fact. Luna has a zeal for living which is a testament that people have a choice as to how they respond to influences in their lives, good and bad.
For over seventy-five years, Luna has been exacting her revenge against the injustices she and millions of others suffered by living her life to its fullest and giving back through community service and lessons of tolerance and respect.
It would be a complete travesty of justice should we forget the life and experiences of Luna Kaufman. Luna authored her memoirs in the book called, Luna’s Life: A Journey of Forgiveness and Triumph published in 2009.
Wreaths Across America met this charismatic woman in 2015 during the Annual Wreath Escort to Arlington National Cemetery. There we saw the powerful Liberation Monument in Liberty State Park, New Jersey and heard a portion of her story.
Luna admits that today her memories of the war and the loss of her family and millions of others in Nazi concentration camps seem like science fiction, but she’s quick to caution it’s a story that must never be forgotten to avoid the brutality and bloodshed of tyranny in the future. She also reminds us that citizens of other countries have suffered genocide since WW II.
In 2016, Luna joined Wreaths Across America in Maine for a Stem to Stone tree-tagging dedication where she remembered her family members killed during the Holocaust and honored WW II liberators.
Luna explains that before the rise of Hitler Germany was the America of Europe; democratic and liberal. She and her family were among the nine million Jews who lived in European countries that would wind up being invaded and occupied as the Nazis carried out their state-sponsored extermination of the population.
In this video and those that will follow Luna shares her memories of how her family was initially separated when the war broke out and of her fierce determination to take care of her Mother.
As part of the process of humiliation and torture used to break their will, the Nazis never spoke their names. They were identified only as a number; Luna was 648, and her Mother was 255. Luna never had her number tattooed on her arm as did many of the concentration camp victims. Instead, Luna kept her prison dress so she would always have physical proof that she was a "child of the Holocaust."
***This video contains some graphic images***
Wreaths Across America will share more of Luna's story including a visit we facilitated with World War II liberator Thurman Pace.