For many years, I felt I wasn’t a “true survivor;” having not been in a Nazi concentration camp, or having had to live under German occupation. Once I was convinced that I am in fact a survivor, I felt that I better start doing something about it because time was running out.
I decided to record my story so that it would become more permanent; to give to my family so they would have this history, and so my grandchildren would have a better understanding of who their Zaidie is.
My family knew what I’d been through, but we never talked about it. I started to learn that this was true about many survivors, particularly in Israel, which became home for many survivors. They were more concerned about starting a new life and raising their families. I believe that the turning point for a lot of them was the Eichmann trial. This is when they saw witnesses share what they had been through and what that man was responsible for. There was a real swelling of narratives and it opened up the conversation.
A turning point for me was when my grandson came with me on the March of The Living in 2016. It was incredibly cathartic and lifted a huge weight off my shoulders. That was when I started talking about it.
Around the same time, I was invited to speak at Hillel UofT and I realized how important it was to tell my story because my story is what I like to call an “untold story.” Most survivors survived Poland, yet in addition to the 3 million Jews who were murdered in Poland, 2.5 million also died in the Soviet Union, which is not talked about as often. I believe it is so important to make the world aware of what we went through in the death camps and slave labour camps outside of Poland.
I tell my story because the young generations are the last who will know a Holocaust survivor. Their children likely will not. And there’s nothing like listening to a survivor – that’s when we become the witnesses.
The response I get from sharing my story with young people – teenagers and university students – is so powerful. The learning and discussions go beyond our presentations. They continue the conversation well after the presentation.
The Holocust is something that affects all the people. It’s not just about Jews. Jews are the people of tikkun olam (repairing the world) and we have the obligation to remind the world what can happen if we allow hatred to dominate. We all must address hate and any racism – that’s what we have to do.