Sullivan County Democrat
Callicoon, New York
July 2, 2013 Issue
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Eli Ruiz | Democrat

These four all had close connections to the Holocaust. From left, Bob Friedman, Marlene Wertheim, Walter Klein and Steve Kurlander will be reading letters written from Nazi prison and death camps at this Sunday’s Sullivan County Community Chorus concert.

'Holocaust Cantata' hits close to home

Story by Eli Ruiz
WOODBOURNE — June 7, 2013 — Founded by Monticello math and music teachers Lucille Horton and Marty Banner, the Sullivan County Chorus will be holding its 36th Spring Concert this Sunday at 3 p.m. at the Immaculate Conception Roman Catholic Church in Woodbourne.
Dubbed the “Holocaust Cantata,” the June 9 concert will feature the 40-plus person chorus singing, as Sullivan County Chorus board member and marketing head Barbara Konvalin explains, “music inspired by what people who had been in the Nazi prison camps during WWII went through.”
Interspersed throughout Sunday’s musical acts will be readings of actual letters written by Nazi camp prisoners. Four Sullivan County residents – Walter Klein, Steve Kurlander, Bob Friedman and Marlene Wertheim – all with close ties to the Nazi atrocity that took the lives of more than six million Jews, will have the honor of reading these very personal narratives.
For Klein, Sunday’s concert will be very personal indeed, as he was part of the famed British Kindertransport in which nearly 10,000 mostly Jewish children from Nazi Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia, Poland and The Free City of Danzig were granted asylum in the United Kingdom. The rescue mission took place in the nine months leading up to the outbreak of World War II. Klein and his four older siblings would all make it out of Germany safely.
Klein will also be reading a letter written by his mother, who stayed behind in Germany and whom he would never again see.
“I was three years old and since they [his siblings] were much older than me it was their responsibly to take care of me on that trip,” offered an emotional Klein. Klein and two of his brothers emigrated to the United States. A baker by trade, Klein worked at the old Katz’s Bakery in Liberty for many years.
Marlene Wertheim was born in Vienna, Austria and explained, “I am a Holocaust survivor… we lived under the Nazi regime from 1938, when Austria was annexed that March, until we were finally able to leave in 1939.”
Wertheim touched on her family’s fortune to have had family in the United States during that tumultuous period, “and that we were ultimately able to come here,” she recalled.
Bob Friedman has been president of Congregation Agudas Achim in Livingston Manor for close to 30 years. Regarding Sunday’s honor, Friedman offered, “I think I was chosen as a representative of the existing Jewish community in Sullivan County. One of the core principles and beliefs of our Synagogue is keeping history alive and the importance of keeping the Jewish faith.”
Friedman moved to Livingston Manor from Long Island in 1967 and landed his first teaching job at Livingston Manor High School.
Local attorney Steve Kurlander’s mother Rochelle lived in Poland during the Nazi invasion of 1939. Kurlander explained that shortly after the so-called September Campaign, his mother and family fled across the border into Russia. Though later deported to Siberia, Kurlander relates, “They were able to skip through Kazakstan and the camps and were able to survive.”
The Sullivan County Chorus is led by chairman and president Louis J. Setren. For more information on Sunday’s concert and other planned events call Lucille Horton at 794-7869.

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