Yad Vashem Honors ‘Denial,’ Gene Simmons and his Holocaust Survivor Mom Flora

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Gene Simmons with daughter Sophie and wife ShannonThere couldn’t have been a more eclectic group honored at the American Society for Yad Vashem’s Salute to Hollywood, held June 14 at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel.

Thoroughly exemplifying the theme “Keep the Memories Alive from Generation to Generation,” KISS co-founder Gene Simmons and his mother Flora Klein– who saw her family killed during the Holocaust when she was 14 years old– were honored with the organization’s Legacy Award at its fourth annual benefit gala.

Simmons’ speech was the capper to an inspirational evening in which the spirit of the survivors always took center stage—as they did in the film “Denial,” based upon historian Deborah Lipstadt’s book about her legal battle against a Holocaust denier who accused her of libel.

Two of the film’s producers, Gary Foster and Russ Krasnoff were honored with the Vanguard Award for “Denial,” which was released last year by Participant Media and starred Rachel Weisz in the leading role.

“This shocking idea [of Holocaust denial] had become more commonplace and it increased our sense of urgency in making this movie,” said Foster, who noted that they started working on it in 2008. “There is a difference between truth, lies and opinion. There is a difference.”

Lipstadt appeared via video following a clip from the film. “It was a labor of love – if you can say that about the Holocaust,” she said in her taped comments. “I hope it plays a small part against lies and hatred.” Noted attorney Alan Dershowitz, also on tape, lauded Lipstadt and the film. “It’s so important that we honor Deborah and her heroism in a court of law. There is a trend of rebutting false history and this film brings that mission to life.”

Denial“Everyone involved was committed to making this factual. We had to be diligent and disciplined and every word of the trial had to be verbatim in the script written by David Hare,” said Foster. He noted that they actually filmed at Auschwitz, which proved to be a key part of the film. “If we would’ve had to a build a set,that could lend credence to those say it didn’t actually exist. Fortunately they agreed to let us film there. We knew how important it was to get it right, to transmit history to future generations. Deborah’s story has moved people around the world. Yad Vashem is sobering. Six million is a big number, especially when you personalize it and make it human.”

Philanthropists Abraham, Edita and Rita Spiegel received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Society for Yad Vashem. The family has been instrumental in funding the Children’s Memorial there, a place of memory and contemplation.

The award was presented by another noted philanthropist, Sheldon Adelson, who credited Abe Spiegel for getting him involved in supporting Yad Vashem.

The organization, which is dedicated to advancing the Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority in Jerusalem, along with the Jewish Life Foundation, which funds educational and cultural programs on Jewish Life Television, raised more than $800,000 during the gala, which was attended by 580 people.

Gene and mom FloraMany fans of the mega-successful rock band Kiss, founded in 1973 and still playing sold-out arena tours, may not realize that Simmons’ mother was a Holocaust survivor. He emigrated to the US from Israel with her when he was eight years old.

Although she could not make the trip from her home in New York–Simmons joked that she refused to fly first-class –he spoke lovingly of her as he accepted the Legacy Award they share on her behalf. “She never talked to me about it because she wanted to save me the pain. Her mantra was ‘Every day above the ground is a good one’. Among the other great lessons she taught me was to follow the 10 Commandments and to live right and be a mensch. Love one, love all,” he concluded, to a standing ovation from the crowd.

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Author: Hillary Atkin

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