Holocaust Survivor Leads March in Berkeley

Holocaust survivor Ben Stern (center) marches with local rabbis Yonatan Cohen and Menachem Creditor, his daughter Charlene Stern, Rabbi Julie Saxe-Taller, and Michael Saxe-Taller. (Eli Wirtschafter/KQED)

Ben Stern, a 95-year-old Holocaust survivor, marched to an anti-racism rally in downtown Berkeley Sunday, just a few blocks away from the right-wing protest at Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park.

Stern led a group of Jewish demonstrators to the counterprotest. He walked half a mile from his apartment, arm in arm with his daughter, Charlene Stern, and three local rabbis -- Menachem Creditor, Yonatan Cohen and Julie Saxe-Taller.

Stern fought back tears as the march began.

"I’m not here alone with the live people," said Stern, "but I see all the people of my past -- my family, my friends who didn’t make it."

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Stern survived two ghettos and nine concentration camps. He says no one stood up for the Jews of Europe, and that Americans today must unite against racism.

"It affects every one of us," said Stern. "Not only us Jews, but Muslims, blacks, Mexicans and different nationalities."

Rabbi Creditor, Ben Stern, and Rabbi Cohen, just before Stern took the mic at Sunday's rally in Berkeley. (Eli Wirtschafter/KQED)

In the late '70s, Stern organized marches against neo-Nazis in Skokie, Illinois. In Berkeley Sunday, he told the crowd he believes he survived so he could continue to speak up against hatred.

"Today you proved that we stand together against the threat of racism, Nazism," said Stern.

Stern added that he felt hopeful, seeing the crowd's outpouring of support.