The daughter of two survivors, Naomi tells the stories of her parents from primary source documents and historical records.
Naomi is the daughter of two Holocaust survivors. She tells the stories of both of her parents with details from primary source documents and historical records. Their survival is truly remarkable.
In 1938, Naomi’s father Eric Weiss, attended a rally in Vienna after the Germans occupied Austria. He sensed that he had to get his parents out of Vienna and escape himself. He arranged for his parents to take an Eastern escape route through Russia to Yokahama, Japan and finally to Portland, Oregon. Eric’s acceptance to the Hebrew University allowed him to leave Germany for what was then Palestine under British rule (now Israel). While in Palestine, Eric was recruited to work for as a spy for the British and traveled to Egypt, Algiers, Tunisia, Libya, and Italy in that capacity. He served from 1939-1944.
Naomi’s mother, Gerda Feldmann, was born in 1923 in a small town in what is now the Czech Republic. The Germans invaded Czechoslovakia in 1939 when Gerda was 16. She was sent to a series of slave labor camps in Poland and was finally liberated by British forces at Bergen-Belsen. Gerda, ill with typhus, was sent by the Red Cross to Sweden to recuperate, and eventually she too arrived in Palestine.
Gerda and Eric met in Israel, but Eric left in 1950, traveling to Portland to reunite with his parents. Gerda followed and they were married in 1950. Naomi grew up in Portland hearing parts of these stories. Her mother died when Naomi was 17, but her father lived to be 100.
Naomi calls her story, “Resilience: My Family Story.” She gathered all the documents and pictures she could find, consulted with relatives, and researched many details of this story. Her hope, as one of the Holocaust Center’s Legacy Speakers, is to reach young people and help them to understand the way our lives can be threatened, and what each one of us can do to make a difference.
Steve Pruzan's grandparents and his mother fled Germany in 1939, and made their home in the United States.
Steve Pruzan’s grandparents, Max and Helene Schlonau, owned a large farm in Germany. They had owned and operated the farm at Warmsen, Germany for many generations. It was a gathering place for family who lived nearby. His grandfather, Max Schlonau served in World War I. He studied agriculture, enlarged his land holdings, used the most updated agricultural methods, and invented a breeding method for cattle. He was a leader in the area and in the small Jewish community in Warmsen.
Max and Helene married in 1923 and Steve’s mother, Inge was born in 1924. After 1933, when Hitler became Chancellor of Germany, things got progressively more difficult for the Schlonaus. Inge had to take a 5 hour train ride to Hanover in order to go to school as Jewish students were not allowed in German schools. Max was arrested on Kristallnacht and held at Buchenwald Concentration Camp for 3 weeks until his wife paid a fine to get him released.
By 1938 they had made plans to leave Germany. Helene had a cousin who was already settled in Seattle, Dr. Hans Lehmann. Lehman provided the Schlonau’s with an affidavit, and with Max’s agriculture experience, the family was able to expedite the visa process. They sailed from the Netherlands on September 1, 1939. The Schlonaus settled in Seattle where Dr. Lehmann was a prominent physician.
Steve’s mother, Inge attended Seattle University and graduated with a degree in nursing. She married Howard Pruzan, a Seattle attorney.
Steve is a practicing attorney in Seattle. He shares his family’s story as a member of the Speakers Bureau.
Jack Schaloum is the son of Holocaust survivor Magda Schaloum, a Hungarian survivor of Auschwitz and other concentration camps.
Magda was born to a loving family in 1922 in Gyor, Hungary. Following the German occupation of Hungary on March 19, 1944, the Nazis began systematically depriving Jews of their rights and forcing them into ghettos. They forced Magda and her family to leave their home and deported Magda, her brother and mother to Auschwitz.
Through the window of the cattle car, Magda saw her father desperately trying to give them a package filled with food and essentials. The SS guards treated him brutally, but took the package and told him they would give it to his family. Instead, the SS guards kept it for themselves. Magda’s father was held for forced labor in the coal mines, and the Nazis eventually transported him to the Buchenwald slave labor camp in Germany. Magda’s sister avoided deportation thanks to one of the protective papers from the Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg, later declared a Righteous Among the Nations.
After riding for days in the fetid cattle car, Magda arrived in Auschwitz, only to be separated from her brother, 15, and her mother, 56. The Nazis forced Magda to processing where they tattooed a number on her arm.
At Mühldorf, (another slave labor camp) in April, 1945, Magda met the man she would eventually marry: Mr. Izak Schaloum, a Sephardic native of Salonika, Greece. Their stay at Mühldorf was brief. The Nazis loaded them onto a cattle wagon with other survivors to be transported to an unknown spot to be murdered, but Allied troops liberated them along the way.
Magda passed away in June 2015. Her son Jack is a member of the Holocaust Center for Humanity's Speakers Bureau and is carrying on his mother’s legacy by sharing her story.
Judy Schocken’s story is about how the Nazi rise to power affected her family in Czechoslovakia, changing their future forever.
Judy’s paternal grandfather lived in Czechoslovakia, where he had a business selling wholesale eggs. As antisemitism grew during the early 1900s, he moved his family several times within Czechoslovakia for their safety. With Hitler as chancellor of Germany since 1933, the borderlands of Germany and Czechoslovakia increasingly became a target for the Nazis’ territorial ambition. Judy’s father Frantisek “Frank” studied refrigeration in the United States in 1936, so the family could improve their egg business, but he returned to Czechoslovakia.
After several difficult moves in search of a better life, the family decided to send Frank, his wife Margaret, and their infant son, Peter, to the United States. The plan was to eventually have them send for the rest of the family. The Blochs were fortunate to have a relative in Seattle who served as a sponsor; the three obtained visas in 1938 and arrived in Seattle in January 1939, less than a year before World War II broke out.
The Bloch family changed their surname to “Block” and settled into life in Seattle. Judy and her older brother Steve were both born in the United States. Frank eventually returned to the egg business, and the whole Block clan spent lots of time with other Jewish refugee families from the same part of Czechoslovakia, particularly enjoying hiking and skiing together.
Unfortunately, no other immediate family members of Judy’s parents were able to leave Europe. Judy and her father both spent time researching their relatives’ fates – information that Judy describes in her presentation. She collected additional primary sources and family photos, and, with the help of the Holocaust Center for Humanity, put the pieces together.
As the daughter of those lucky enough to escape the Holocaust, Judy shares her story as a member of the Center’s Speakers Bureau to tell about the effects of bigotry, bullying, and antisemitism. Judy and her husband Joe still live in the Seattle area, and have 4 children and many grandchildren.