Beth Sholom Congregation

The Beth Sholom Congregation, located on North Market Street in Frederick.

December 2020 will mark the 80th anniversary of when Herta Griffel boarded a ship destined for the United States to escape the worsening conditions of Nazi-occupied Austria. She was just 7 years old and the only child of Beila Griffel, a Jewish woman.

The decision to send Griffel to the U.S. ultimately saved her life, as she is the sole survivor of her Jewish elementary school class in Vienna.

While her story is different from the millions of European Jews persecuted under Adolf Hitler’s “Final Solution,” it is emblematic of the struggles that immigrants and asylum-seekers in the United States face today, and why the congregations of Beth Sholom and Kol Ami invited Griffel to speak at their annual community Holocaust memorial program on Sunday.

Griffel will share her story of arriving in New York and being assigned a foster family in Baltimore, before moving in with another family, the Friedlanders, for the rest of her childhood. Far from her home and biological family, Griffel did not learn of her mother’s fate until 2004 in Israel at the Yad Vashem World Holocaust Remembrance Center, which revealed that Beila Griffel died two years after sending her away while being deported from Vienna to Maly Trostinets concentration camp.

The Nazis killed 6 million Jews during the Holocaust, and Frederick County’s congregations are determined not to forget.

The congregations will open their doors to the community for a free program of songs, readings and musical selections at Beth Sholom synagogue at 1011 N. Market St. in Frederick on Sunday starting at 1 p.m.

The theme of this year’s event will be “Save the Children” and “Immigration and Asylum.”

Great efforts were made to evacuate Jewish children from Europe after Hitler came to power in 1933, even before World War II started in the fall of 1939.

Youth Aliyah evacuated 5,000 Jewish children from Europe to Palestine before the war broke out. In all, more than 9,000 children reached Palestine and were saved from imprisonment and execution during the war.

Multiple organizations in France also worked to hide and arrange the release of Jewish children imprisoned in internment camps. Many were smuggled to safety in Switzerland and Spain during the war. It is believed that as many as 12,000 to 15,000 children were saved by the work of these groups in France.

Griffel was just one of a few hundred Jewish children to make it through the U.S.’s strict immigration regulations in December 1940 with the help of the New York-based children rescue organization, German Children’s Jewish Aid. Because of work of volunteers, Griffel survived the war and married Arthur “Otts” Baitch. Together they raised three children and several grandchildren.

As the United States confronts ongoing immigration questions at its southern border, the hope is that Griffel’s story can help to reframe the conversation, according to event organizers.

One of the organizers, Martin Erlichman, pointed to the words of the late Elie Wiesel, a Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Prize winner who died in 2016.

“You, who are so-called illegal aliens, must know that no human being is illegal. That is a contradiction in terms. Human beings can be beautiful or more beautiful, they can be fat or skinny, they can be right or wrong, but illegal? How can a human being be illegal?” Wiesel wrote.

“Because once you label a people ‘illegal,’ that is exactly what the Nazis did to Jews,” he added.

Follow Samantha Hogan on Twitter: @SAHogan.

Samantha Hogan is the state house, environment, agriculture and energy reporter for The Frederick News-Post.

(7) comments


We had Jewish refugees in upstate New York. They left Germany or other European countries because they had no choice. It was leave or die.
I am proud to say that the U.S.saved them and they were welcome in upstate New York. ..For the most part, they looked the same as anyone else, it was simply persecution because of religion, in this case Jewish.

Now we have refugees fleeing for their lives. It's leave or die. They speak a different language, but so did the Jewish refugees. They are slightly different in color as most have mixed heritage. Some Indian, some Negro, some Cacasian. For some reason the Republicans and Trump wants us to fear them. Why? Is the color of their skin make them bad? I think not. And there's no issue of religion because most are Christian, probably largely Catholic. Is that the far right Evangelical objection? I certainly hope not.

This hate everyone that is slightly different needs to stop. These Trump rallies preaching hate needs to stop. .The U
S. needs to help refugees fleeing for their life and putting them in cages until they can be processed is not acceptable.



"“You, who are so-called illegal aliens, must know that no human being is illegal. That is a contradiction in terms. Human beings can be beautiful or more beautiful, they can be fat or skinny, they can be right or wrong, but illegal? How can a human being be illegal?” Wiesel wrote."

No doubt names and labels are important. Indeed, a human being cannot be "illegal" -- that makes no sense.

I would suggest however that in most cases where the term is used it is out of linguistic laziness. "Illegal alien" is occasionally seen in US gov't publications, and statements by well-meaning politicians and others.

The IRS uses a term that is more accurate: "undocumented alien".

The bottom line is that we are referring to people who are in the country illegally. That's hardly the crime of the century (or even the week) but it is a fact and should not be glossed over.

As for immigration in general -- all decent people want to help others. Unfortunately:

a) America is already seriously overpopulated. We are at DOUBLE our sustainable population.

We have a l-o-n-g list of problems that are a direct result of overpopulation.

We should be decreasing our population, not increasing it.

b) The US treasury is BANKRUPT. Our debt is now $22 trillion and counting, that's $181,000 per taxpayer:

We might be able to reduce our spending on defense and use the money for foreign aid, but sadly, we must severely restrict the number of immigrants we allow into the country.

It's not evil; racist; or xenophobic to want to protect America from further ecological and financial ruin. In fact, it is the moral thing to do.

Furthermore, we can help more people improve their lives by assisting them where they live -- helping them increase their quality of life in their home country. Helping many in their homeland is better than helping fewer here.

Please refrain from insinuating that everyone who is concerned about immigration levels is a Nazi/racist/xenophobe. That is intellectually lazy and is nothing more than a way to avoid having a real conversation.


We are not overpopulated. Our birth rate is declining. We need immigrants to sustain our workforce, take jobs Americans don't and won't (many of them in the service sector and agriculture), and to make Social Security solvent, and increasing the number of taxpayers who will help to pay down that debt. Yes, immigration should be done legally, and we need reform to make it meet everyone's needs. It is ridiculous for us to deport children who were raised here, who are culturally American, and who we paid to educate. Talk about a waste of money.


I'd like to add that arguing against immigration in the face of the reality of these needs is the reason people assume xenophobia is the motivating factor. If we have problems and there is a mutual benefit to solving them through immigration reform, but you still have a problem with certain people, the situation may be simply your misinformation. You should also understand where the other side is coming from when they see you making arguments that are false to justify your position. It does not look like acting in good faith.


Hi melbell,

First let me say that I agree with you that, "It is ridiculous for us to deport children who were raised here, who are culturally American, and who we paid to educate".

In addition, we agree that, "...immigration should be done legally".

That said --

1) While it's true that the birth rate has declined, our population continues to increase dramatically.

Please see:

Here are just 5 statements from that web page:

* U.S. population is growing by over 2,000,000 people per year -- that's 240 per hour -- about half from new births and half from immigration.1

* According to Global Footprint Network data, the U.S. can sustain a population of only about 150 million at a reduced consumption level similar to Europeans.2

* The U.S. population is using renewable resources twice as fast as they can be regenerated.2

* If everyone on the planet lived like an average American, it would take over 4 Earths to produce the renewable resources and absorb the wastes needed to support us.3

* Each additional American requires about 1 acre of built land and highways, which means less land is available for growing food.4

That is all factual information, with footnotes. Not only is it factual, it is very concerning. There is more there, but it is just one page -- a quick read.

2) The overall US birthrate is below replacement level, but that's due in part to fewer teen pregnancies, and women having more opportunities to work outside the home. This is an interesting article on the subject:

Here's the perspective of a millennial woman:

3) The claim that 'immigrants take jobs Americans won't do' is incomplete at best. The truth is that Americans will do any job if it pays a living wage. Pay is being held artificially low by unscrupulous employers who exploit people who are here illegally. Here is some go data and a short (2 min) video:

4) Social Security is a pyramid/Ponzi scheme. Infinite growth on a finite planet is impossible. This is a good short piece on the subject:

Our population cannot continue to grow forever, without limit. All rational people know that is impossible. We need to ween ourselves from the idea that "growth is good" -- that population growth is necessary for a healthy economy. It must stop sooner or later -- and the longer we wait to slowly stop and then reverse it, the more difficult it will be.

5) I come from a family that supports -- and in some cases marries -- immigrants. I enjoyed working with people from all around the world when I was with Metro. We all want to help people. It is not easy to turn people away. We can all be proud of America's history of welcoming immigrants, but 'that was then'. Up until maybe 100 years ago, we needed -- or at least could accept -- more people.

In 1910 the population of the US was 92,228,496:

That's a sustainable level. 320,000,000 is not. The life raft is full, and we're taking on water.

As much as we want to help others, our first obligation as Americans is to protect our country from any additional environmental damage and resource depletion. The best we can do it to offer financial aid -- to improve people's lives where they live. Even that is a stretch since we are literally bankrupt. We are over $22 trillion in debt -- and that's not including "unfunded obligations" that are tens of trillions more.

6) Finally, speaking of money, people argue endlessly about the cost of illegal immigration. I've seen figures as low as $5-10B and as high as $125B. Whatever the actual number is, people who are here illegally are not paying down our debt -- they are adding to it (as a group).

Even if they were helping to pay down the debt, the problems related to overpopulation far outweigh and financial considerations.

None of the above should be misconstrued as anti-immigrant. I wish we were in a position to be able to allow more people into the country, but we simply are not. To do so would be be grossly reckless, irresponsible, and immoral. Foreign aid is the best we can do.


American History 201.


And people wonder why parents would be so desperate they would risk sending their children to the US alone. This is why.

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