“Ina Navazelskis, an interviewer with the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, was quiet for a moment as she watched him on her laptop in her study in Falls Church, Va. Normally, she would have been face to face with Orel in his home with a video and audio crew. Now, forced by the pandemic to talk on a shaky Zoom connection over a cellphone taped to his computer, Orel took out some tissues and wiped his nose.” See full story here.
“America, a nation of immigrants, has a dark past of rejecting “the other.” This history includes the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, the National Quotas Act of 1924 and the World War II internment of Japanese Americans. Even in the aftermath of the Holocaust, our borders were barely open to Jewish survivors. In 1945, a million Jewish, Polish, Latvian, Lithuanian, Estonian, Ukrainian and volksdeutsche refugees in displaced persons camps in Germany and Austria faced resettlement. Three-quarters of the million in the DP camps were not Jewish. “The Last Million: Europe’s Displaced Persons from World War to Cold War,” David Nasaw’s new book, recounts how the United States was slow to create adequate camps for the Jewish survivors, and, in the next decade, new laws pushed back on accepting large numbers of Jewish refugees.” Read full story here.
It was a moment of quick thinking on the part of 15-year-old Herbert Heller. He was at Auschwitz, standing before the man who would decide whether he lived or died, a man he was told went by the name of Dr. Mengele. “I can work,” Heller said in German, and flexed what he now calls “nonexistent muscles.” He may have been scrawny, but it was enough, and he was sent not to the gas chamber but to the barracks of the camp. Heller, 91, said that moment has never left him. Read full story, includes link to video here.
“Kids can change the world,” said Tova Fish-Rosenberg, founder of Names, Not Numbers — a national non-profit that is an intergenerational Holocaust oral history film documentary project. She was speaking of students from Kellman Brown Academy, a Jewish day school in Voorhees, New Jersey, and KIPP Lanning Square Middle School, based in Camden, New Jersey, who divided into small groups and interviewed Holocaust survivors on film.” Read full story here and see the “Names, Not Numbers” website here, where you can see some interviews.
The movie Soul Witness is based on over 80 hours of Holocaust video testimony, conducted approximately 30 years ago in Brookline. Interviews ranged from 45 minutes to 7 hours. The goal of the effort was to memorialize the Holocaust through video testimony interviews. See full story here. See also the links for more information – a radio interview, and the website The Story of Soul Witness.
For 40 years, interviewers have been collecting the stories of Holocaust survivors, liberators and witnesses who found their way to St. Louis after World War II. Now, for the first time, the Holocaust Museum and Learning Center has gathered 144 of these oral histories into a searchable website, securing their stories for all time. The Oral Histories Project can be found at HMLC.org/Oral-Histories. For full story click here.
In the 21st century everyone is a writer with an important story to tell and easy access to publishing tools. Underpinning the phenomenon is a plethora of writing courses promoting the notion that all personal stories are equally interesting and should be shared. Is this a welcome advance on the quaint condition of the cottage industry known as publishing, where publishers acted as gatekeepers, editors edited and critics provided robust judgment?
Making sense of one’s life through writing and reflection can be useful. But so too is a stint on the therapist’s couch. In a period bloated by the fetish for the personal and a paucity of informed analysis, there is cause for concern. The compulsion to make a personal exercise public rests on the assumption that an individual’s story must be of interest to others. For full story click here.
North York’s Crestwood Preparatory College is inviting everyone to visit its website showcasing its award-winning Oral History Project. The project features several initiatives that bring together students with veterans of the Second World War and Holocaust survivors, including interviews and digital copies of photos and mementoes. To read the full story click here. This is their website which has videoed interviews.