An annual Holocaust remembrance program is set for Sunday evening at B'nai Israel.
The featured speaker is Mark Wygoda, who heads the biology department at McNeese State University in Louisiana.
He will give a talk called "Hermann Wygoda: From Warsaw Ghetto Smuggler to Italian Partisan Commander," at 7 p.m. at 3830 NW 16th Blvd. in Gainesville.
Wygoda's father, Hermann Wygoda, resisted the Nazis across Europe, from Warsaw, Poland to Germany, where he lived in disguise, and eventually as a commander in the mountains of Italy.
Mark Wygoda will discuss his father's unique experiences as well as the challenges that face the children of Holocaust survivors.
According to a writeup about the event provided by Philip Schwartz, a member of the group that planned the program, Herman Wygoda was a civil engineer in Warsaw when the Nazis occupied the city and the rest of western Poland in 1939. He refused to move into the ghetto or wear an armband identifying him as Jewish. Instead, he assumed a Polish identity and smuggled food into the ghetto.
His mother, brother and young son were killed by Nazis in 1942, the writeup says.
Wygoda later took on the persona of a German national and worked at a border patrol camp and later at a skilled labor recruiting company.
In December 1943, he used forged travel documents to take a train to Savona, Italy, a German-occupied port where he escaped arrest and managed to join a group of local partisans in the surrounding mountains, becoming commander of about 100 young fighters as part of the Italian Liberation Army.
He took the name “Comandante Enrico,” and using his mountain cave as his headquarters, he and his troops began to fight the Germans. Their fame and strength grew with each sucessful skirmish, and he eventually led a more than 2,500 fighters.
The evening will also include a "seventh candle" lighting, to draw attention to victims of the civil war in Syria.
It will be lit by a Gainesville couple who are Muslim and have relatives in Damascus and Aleppo impacted by the war.