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Women who resisted Nazis light candles, Tony Stewart speaks for Yom HaShoah

Carla Peperzak, who grew up in Holland and settled in Spokane in 2004, and Michelle Culbertson, who grew up in Belgium and settled in Spokane in 1959, have not met, but each was part of the resistance in their countries after the Nazi German invasions of their homelands in 1940.

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During the Yom HaShoah service at 7 p.m., Sunday, April 7, at Temple Beth Shalom, 1322 E. 30th Ave., Carla will light a candle as a Holocaust survivor and Michelle will light the candle for the “righteous among the nations” for her role in the resistance to protect Jewish people from being taken to concentration camps during the Holocaust.

Through their years in the resistance, and their years of silence about what they did, both women have believed that it is crucial to respect people from different races, cultures and religions.

Although Carla’s ancestors were all Dutch and Michelle’s all French-speaking Belgians, both are proud that, because they and their children lived and traveled abroad, their grandchildren are multi-racial and multi-cultural.

Carla’s grandchildren have parents with heritages from Iran, Puerto Rico and India.

“Our family gatherings are like a mini-United Nations,” she said.

Michelle’s daughter Denise, married a Hawaiian, so her two grandchildren are a mix of Belgian, Norwegian, English, Irish, Scottish, Hawaiian, Chinese, Portuguese and Korean.  Her great-grandson is also German and Russian.

When Denise helped at the Christmas Bureau in December, she met a Jewish couple and told about her mother’s background.

“When they invited me to light a candle for people in the resistance, I agreed,” Michelle said.  “It’s an honor.”

At the 2013 Yom HaShoah Spokane Community Observance, Tony Stewart, a founding member of the Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations, will speak on “Resistance to Genocide.”

A professor of political science at North Idaho College for 40 years, he has challenged hate in the region through the task force as it has confronted white supremacists and other forms of bigotry in the region.

The observance includes reading the winning middle and high school entries in the Eva Lassman Memorial Creative Writing Contest.  The theme was chosen so students would learn about resistance to the Holocaust, in which Nazis exterminated 6 million Jews and 5 million other people, including Romani, Communists, disabled people, homosexuals and Jehovah’s Witnesses. 

Despite odds, people did resist.  Essay writers also address ways to prevent genocide and hatred, and how to support people who suffer.

For information, call 747-3044 or visit spokanetbs.org.



Copyright © April 2013 - The Fig Tree