Nassau County Executive Laura Curran announced on Friday the launch of a yearlong series of programs and events to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II.
“We’re proud to honor our servicemen and ensure present and future generations will continue to appreciate the sacrifice and lessons of World War II,” Curran said during a news conference at the Cradle of Aviation Museum. “We want to make sure that history is not lost. That history remains alive and we’ve got such wonderful facilities in the county, the armor museum, and this museum right here, that brings that past to life.”
Curran said that with the help of the aviation museum, the Museum of American Armor and the Holocaust Memorial & Tolerance Center the yearlong observance will include a variety of interactive events, retrospectives, tributes and educational programs related to WWII, the Holocaust, veterans affairs and Long Island’s role during that era.
Nassau County Legislator Ellen Birnbaum, a member of the veterans committee, said that it is always looking for new ways to help veterans and to celebrate them for all that they have done to preserve our way of life.
“As we celebrate the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II, we really must remember what took place. The atrocities of the war. The concentration camps,” Birnbaum said. “It’s just an unbelievable time in our history and we have to learn about it and listen to our veterans and listen to our survivors.”
In addition to commemorating V-E Day, which marked the end of the war in Europe, this year also marks the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the concentration camps at Auschwitz.
“Every day at HMTC we use the history and the lessons of the Holocaust to educate about the present-day dangers of antisemitism and intolerance in our schools and communities,” said Holocaust center board member Ronald M. Brunell. “It is through initiatives like the one we have here today, which helps to ensure the memories and legacies of Holocaust survivors, liberators and veterans of WWII live on and inspire generations to come.”
Michael Sapraicone, senior trustee of the Museum of American Armor in Old Bethpage, said that while the museum is best known for its ability to put as many as 40 historic military vehicles in the field, the collection serves as an interactive classroom for the new generation of Americans to better understand the process and priceless gift of freedom provided by those serving before them.
“All these efforts are being undertaken at a time when an appreciation of what World War II continues to mean to our nation, our country and the world is being allowed to fade,” he said. “Together, we stand against losing those critical lessons to time and indifferences. ”
Steven Markowitz, chair of the Holocaust Memorial & Tolerance Center, said the recent rise in anti-Semitism makes this a more important lesson than ever.
“Memories are fading about both what our country and our allies achieved in saving the world from Nazi tyranny as well as the horrors and extent of the Holocaust,” Markowitz said in a news release. “This commemoration of the end of World War II and the liberation of the concentration camps is meaningful for all of us, but especially for the diminishing number of veterans who served and the survivors of the Holocaust.
“We’re honored to join with the county, the American Armor Museum, and the Holocaust Museum to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II.”
Andrew Parton, president of the Cradle of Aviation Museum, said officials there are honored to join in the efforts to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the end of WWII.
“We honor all those who served on the battlefields and on the homefront every day, right here in our World War II gallery,” Parton said. “Grumman, Republic and many other manufacturers were major players in our success during the war and thousands of visitors who tour the museum come away with a greater appreciation for the sacrifices made by all those who served.”
The yearlong campaign will kick off with the installation of a photo essay at the County Center in Mineola curated by the Cradle of Aviation Museum, which highlights the industrial role of Long Island during WWII. The museum will also host a reception in May to celebrate V-E Day featuring popular big band and swing music, dancing and an armor parade including tanks from the armor museum.
The Museum of American Armor will host a WWII encampment weekend on June 13-14 at the Old Bethpage Village Restoration, as well as a daylong field trip on May 8 for more than 1,000 high school students across Long Island. On Friday, May 22, the museum will dedicate a WWII era assault landing craft, similar to the ones used at Normandy on D-Day, and from Sept. 5-6, will feature Tanker weekend, where there will be some 25 armor vehicles in operation at the Old Bethpage Village Restoration.
The Holocaust Memorial & Tolerance Center of Nassau County will also present a number of retrospectives and exhibitions throughout the year, including presentations that will draw lessons about the importance of combating hatred and anti-Semitism.
The center will host a discussion with author Bernice Lerner about her new book “All the Horrors of War: A Jewish Girl, a British Doctor, and the Liberation of Bergen-Belsen,” on Sunday, May 17, at 1 p.m. The center will also announce additional commemoration events in the coming months.