Story of survival

Mack Whittier, a fourth-grader at Montello School in Lewiston, took his book report assignment seriously.

As part of his classroom work, he read “Elly: My True Story of the Holocaust,” written by Elly Berkovits Gross, a Jewish author and poet — and survivor of the Auschwitz concentration camp.

Whittier was so taken with Gross’ story that he sought the 81-year-old grandmother out online and began corresponding with her. She later invited Whittier to visit her in Washington, D.C., and attend her book-signing at the Holocaust Museum on April 25.

He had e-mailed her a photo of himself in advance, so when he arrived Gross recognized the Maine youth and warmly greeted him with a hug and kiss. Gross autographed Whittier’s copy of her book, and they talked about her experiences. Gross encouraged Whittier to talk to his family about the Holocaust throughout his life, saying “tell your children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.”

Gross, who was separated from her mother and brother at Auschwitz, was later moved to the Neuengamme concentration camp, where she was forced into slave work for Volkswagen. Liberated on April 14, 1945, Gross returned to Romania, married and later moved with her family to the United States.

Gross shared family photos with Whittier, including pictures of her mother and brother who were killed during the Holocaust.

Whittier asked her how she emotionally endured the inhumane conditions of the concentration camp, and she said, “My mother told me to take things as they were, to never complain. So, I didn’t complain.”

In addition to the book Whittier read, Gross is the author of “The Poems of Elly Gross: Memories of a Holocaust Survivor,” “Storm Against the Innocents: Holocaust Memories and other Stories,” and the illustrated children’s book “Elka’s Growing Up in a Changing World.”

— Judith Meyer

A note of recognition

We’re nearing the end of Local Musicians Week in Lewiston, so proclaimed by Mayor Laurent Gilbert on Monday.

The proclamation was issued to honor “the exemplary talent and rich history of our local musicians,” and recognize “the rich cultural fabric that represents Lewiston-Auburn and surrounding communities.”

The Androscoggin Valley Community Orchestra, which will perform its Spring Concert on Sunday, is specifically recognized for its contributions since it was founded in 2001.

This orchestra deserves such recognition, as do many other performing organizations and individuals in the Twin Cities, including the Maine Music Society, and the diversity of talent that graces stages at the Franco-American Heritage Center, Bates College, Lewiston-Auburn College and in our public and private schools.

And then there’s Lewiston’s Frank Glazer. A one-man musical tour de force of worldwide renown.

In his proclamation, Gilbert specifically recognizes local musicians Greg Boardman of Auburn, and student musician Hannah Rodrique of Lewiston. The two will perform a double violin concerto at Sunday’s concert, to be held at 3 p.m. at the Franco-American Heritage Center. Tickets for adults are $6; students are free.

— Judith Meyer