Jewish Life at York

The Heart of Auschwitz

The Heart of Auschwitz

At York, we hosted numerous events for Holocaust Education Week, and each was meaningful in its own right. A major highlight was seeing such a large turnout from the York community – students, administration and faculty alike – to come and hear Judy Cohen, a 91-year-old survivor of Auschwitz, come and share her story.

The event we wish to focus upon, however, was our experiential workshop led by Professor Belarie Zatzman, a professor of Theatre Studies here at York. Once again, we had a great turnout that saw Jewish and non-Jewish students, York faculty and Hillel staff come to participate. At the workshop, Professor Zatzman brought a replica of The Heart From Auschwitz, a heart-shaped booklet made of purple fabric, embroidered with an F on its front cover. The heart is a birthday card for a twenty-year-old girl – Fania Fainer – who was a prisoner at Auschwitz. The heart contains handwritten birthday wishes from 19 other female prisoners and represents an act of resistance on their part – they wished to bring joy and humanity into the darkness of Auschwitz. Fania preserved the Heart throughout the waning stages of the Holocaust, even managing to keep it safe during a death march she was forced to go on as the Soviets approached the camp.

To engage with the Holocaust through a material object was fascinating, and our discussion helped us understand just how powerful a statement it was to create this object and to give it as a gift. Everyone in the session was encouraged to think about the object’s materiality – we explored the nuances of its creation and imagined the challenges associated with creating an intricate piece of artwork within the nightmare of Auschwitz. Everyone also read the birthday wishes inscribed in the heart and identified messages that resonated with them. Afterwards, we explored ways that the resonant messages could perhaps intertwine with our personal narratives.

Overall, Professor Zatzman provided us all with a meaningful, evocative and fascinating exploration that all who participated in will not soon forget.

Written by: Jeremy Starr, Program Director

The Importance of Holocaust Education Week

The Importance of Holocaust Education Week

Written By: Ilana Lazar

As a granddaughter of two Holocaust survivors, commemorating the Holocaust is an essential thread in the fabric of my life. Being named after my great aunt, who was murdered in Auschwitz, provides a stark reminder of my history, and serves as a constant reminder of the age-old saying, never forget.

Holocaust education, and especially Holocaust Education Week, is becoming increasingly significant to our generation since we will be the last group to hear stories of survival from Holocaust survivors themselves. In my experience, nothing generates more raw emotion and has a more significant impact than hearing the personal memoirs of the survivor

With Holocaust education, the more we listen, the more we can reflect. This past summer, I went to Austria and walked through the death camp of Mauthausen and the Hartheim T4 Euthanasia Centre. Listening to personal stories of survivors who lived through these terrors gave me the strength to go through the camp and to take those memories with me in my everyday life. It has also inspired me to reflect on how we can learn from the atrocities that occurred during the Holocaust and correct the wrongs in our world today.

Holocaust education and Holocaust Education Week are vital to me because of the reminder to look at my history and experiences as a way to look towards the future. I hope you will join us during Holocaust Education Week here at York coming up November 4th-8th.

 

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