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Ellijay, GA
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Daffodil Project close to Ellijay man’s heart

Albert Marx stands beside a Blue Ridge daffodil garden that’s part of a nationwide tribute to children who died in the Holocaust. (Contributed photo)
by Michael Andrews

Planting 1.5 million daffodils worldwide in memory of children who died in the Holocaust is the basic premise behind a worldwide  memorial effort spearheaded in Georgia by Am Yisrael Chai, an Atlanta-based Holocaust education and awareness nonprofit.

When Albert Marx and his wife, Jeanie, visited a Daffodil Project garden that’s been planted in Blue Ridge, the cause behind the lasting tribute  struck close to home for the 82-year-old Holocaust survivor.

“I was born in Stuttgart, Germany, in 1933, which happened to be the same year that Hitler came to power. I was five-and-a-half when we came over to America,” said Marx.

The family escaped Germany only a week before a violent precursor to the full-scale Nazi occupation.

“On Nov. 9, 1938, there was an event called Crystal Night or the Night of Broken Glass. The Nazis burned down most of the synagogues in  Germany and killed quite a few people. They smashed the windows out of stores owned by  Jews,” said Marx. “Before that, you could leave if you were willing to leave everything behind and you could find a country that would take you in. After that, it was much more difficult to leave Germany.”

They took safe haven in Switzerland, then France, before fleeing Europe.             
“My father got arrested by the Gestapo a couple of times because they wanted to get his business from him. After the second time he got arrested, he came home and said ‘we’re leaving,’” remembered Marx. “(My parents) were smart and lucky. They saw the writing on the wall.”

Marx’s family eventually settled in Little Rock, Ark.

“My dad had learned the (English) language and learned to sell paper products. They gave him a job at the Little Rock Paper Company, where he worked his way up. In 1950, he started his own company,” said Marx.

Marx eventually took over his father’s paper business, Piedmont  National Corporation, which he still operates out of an office in Atlanta. One reason the Daffodil Project resonates so much with him is because Marx could have just as easily been one of those children killed in the name of greed and intolerance.

“Most Jewish people in Germany never thought it would come to what it came to. At first, the Nazis wanted you to leave because you had to leave everything behind and that’s what they wanted,” he said. “After Crystal Night happened, they didn’t want you to leave. They just  wanted to kill you.”        

Blue Ridge is one of   three north Georgia cities in which a Daffodil Project garden has been planted. It can be visited at the children’s playground area inside Blue Ridge City Park. Other nearby gardens are located in Blairsville and Dahlonega.

Over 20 of the memorial sites have been established in the metro Atlanta area. The farthest one from here is in Krakow, Poland.

The daffodils, or March flowers as they’re called around north  Georgia, have already bloomed this spring. The garden, however, is open year-round. Visitors are encouraged to plant a bulb of their own to help reach the goal.

“You just drop your bulb in and cover it up. Daffodils last a long time and they come back every year,” said Marx. “There seems to be a lot of people out there who are interested in memorializing kids who died during the second World War — both Jewish and non-Jewish people. So far they’ve planted about 300,000 daffodils on the way to 1.5 million.”
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