ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Yom HaShoah is a tradition of remembrance that goes back almost 60 years.

“It’s important that we remember this day, because we are remembering people who were murdered in the Holocaust,” said Monica Gebell, director of communications for the Jewish Federation of Greater Rochester and the granddaughter of two Holocaust survivors.

But for Holocaust survivors and their family members, remembrance is a year-round thing.

“I wasn’t aware of antisemitism at 4, 5 years old. And the little village that my grandparents lived in, I thought only had a couple of Jewish families,” said Renate Livingston, Holocaust survivor.

Livingston was born in Germany and moved to England just before the war began.

“I originally left Germany on the Kindertransport in 1939 in February, just before my 5th birthday,” she said. “We had different foster parents. My sister had one set, I had another set and my mother had to work. The only way we could get to England was on a domestic permit.”

She moved to Rochester in 1946 with her mother, sister and stepfather. 

She never believed she would go back to Germany — but she was wrong, and returned in 2016.

“One experience of returning to Germany was, there was a gentleman there who took us around and his father-in-law I guess was a Nazi and he apologized for him,” Livingston said. “He spoke in German, but his son translated and then he came over to hug us, so we hugged him. It’s a whole other generation and you can’t blame everybody.”

For her and for Holocaust survivors’ families, remembering has also been transformative.

“Growing up as the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors has pretty much shaped the entirety of my life trajectory with my landing at Jewish Federation and working on behalf of the Jewish community,” said Gebell. 

Now the biggest part of passing the story on is to keep history from repeating itself. 

“This year, particularly, we’re seeing more parallels between 1939 and today. We’re learning a lot about how antisemitism has morphed and shapeshifted even further,” Gebell said.  

“This war that's going on now, it’s a lot of people that are getting hurt on both sides and I just always wonder why we have to have wars,” said Livingston. “We never seem to learn and it’s sad. It just would be nice if we could live in peace and like each other.”