A crowd of about 200 were kissed by an unexpected rainfall the mayor described as “tears from Heaven” Sunday during an afternoon unveiling ceremony for the city’s newest Holocaust remembrance monument.
A few in the crowd started to leave as the light drizzle morphed into a light rain.
“Don’t panic and leave. Think of this as tears from Heaven of those who lost their lives as we celebrate this opportunity to unveil this memorial,” said Mayor John Rhodes.
The brief shower gave way to sunlight before the ceremony’s end. Breaking through the clouds, the beams of light gleamed off of the stone monument’s butterfly wings as the sheets that veiled it were removed.
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Ellie Schiller, a former social studies teacher at Chabad Jewish Academy, said the same weather pattern greeted her unveiling of 1.5 million paper butterflies nearly 20 years ago.
The slogan ‘Never Again’ came out of Israel by survivors who immigrated to Israel and helped fight for its independence. It really sends the message that never again will Jews go quietly to their death.
Hugo Schiller, Holocaust survivor
Schiller asked her students in 1998 to create 1.5 million paper butterflies so they could visualize the amount of children killed in the Holocaust.
And long before the birth of social media – the assignment went viral spreading in newspapers, news casts and word-of-mouth reports around the world. People across America and other foreign lands sent butterflies to Schiller’s class.
The monument shows a butterfly breaking out of its concrete enclosure. It was inspired by Schiller’s assignment and stands at the Grand Park Athletic Complex across from Crabtree Gymnasium.
The memorial was the brainchild of local author Joy Glunt, who wrote about Schiller’s classroom assignment that caught the world’s attention.
The drops began to fall as Schiller’s husband and Holocaust survivor Hugo Schiller described the violence and unrest that deeply scarred his generation and the turmoil that continues to haunt the world today.
Think of this as tears from Heaven of those who lost their lives as we celebrate this opportunity to unveil this memorial.
John Rhodes, Myrtle Beach mayor
“World peace is as illusive as ever. People are still being killed because of who they are,” he said, but “ultimately good always triumphs over evil.”
“I belong to an ever-diminishing group. I was 9 years old when we were deported out of Germany into a concentration camp,” Hugo Schiller said.
He was born Aug. 18, 1931 to a Jewish family in Grünsfeld, Germany, according to the Hugo Schiller papers archived in the Jewish Heritage Collection at the College of Charleston. Hugo Schiller was able to escape the concentration camp with the help of his parents and a Quaker group that took him to a children’s home in Aspet, France. His parents were later deported to Auschwitz and killed.
“To a greater or lesser degree those of us who survived have some feelings of guilt because we made it while so many more didn’t,” Hugo Schiller said Sunday. “We weren’t smarter. We weren’t kinder. We weren’t more religious. We were just the ones that survived. So when you make an effort at making the memory permanent it alleviates some of that guilt.”