In the Media
Local Students Win Regional Art Competitions
Key Peninsula News | July 1, 2019 | By Alice Kinerk
In recent weeks, four Key Peninsula Middle School students, Madison Robbins, Deven Loska, Grace Nesbit and Mia Stitt, received honors for their creative photography and filmmaking skills in two regional contests.
This spring, KPMS teacher Vicky Schauer taught her class about the Holocaust as part of the eighth-grade curriculum. Afterward, students were assigned to research more about the lives of the individuals in the books they had read.
This inspired eighth-grader Deven Loska to draw portraits of several Holocaust survivors. Her work earned her Honorable Mention in the Writing, Art & Film Contest at the Holocaust Center for Humanity in Seattle.
Classmates Grace Nesbit and Mia Stitt responded to what they learned in Schauer’s class by producing a brief documentary film telling the story of Carla Peperzak. Peperzak, a Dutch resistance fighter, disguised herself as a German nurse to rescue Jews from trains, found hiding places for those who managed to escape, published an underground newspaper, and created fake identification papers and ration cards. The eighth-graders’ film received first place for their age group in the Holocaust Center contest.
Creating a documentary went far above and beyond the class assignment. “We went to Mrs. Schauer’s room every day at lunch for two weeks to work on it,” Grace said.
“Mrs. Schauer helped us a lot. She helped outline each slide and helped with the filming we were doing. She connected us with other teachers. We couldn’t have done it without her,” Mia said.
Schauer, who has taught Key Peninsula eighth graders about the Holocaust since 2007, was happy to help. “When Grace and Mia came to me with an idea for entering a film, I was thrilled. We spent many hours storyboarding, shooting scenes, writing scripts and learning more about the subject of their film. Then we reached out to resources such as Garrett Morrow (KPFD 16 Fire Chief Morrow’s 19-year-old son), to help edit, teacher Gary Alsin to help with the graphics, and teacher Richard Miller to compress the film file. As this whole production took place during state testing, it was very challenging to meet our deadline. They persisted. Just like the subject of their film,” Schauer said.
The film ends with a scene of soldiers in boots transforming to feet of students walking down a school hallway. “We wanted to take the idea of the Holocaust and compare it to something today. Bullies single people out. We wanted to show that it is really quite similar,” Grace said. “The message is that one voice can change things. Standing up can have an impact.”
The event served a dual purpose of honoring winners and celebrating the signing of a new bill in the Washington Legislature that supports Holocaust education. A Holocaust survivor oversaw the ceremony and gave the KPMS students their award. “Henry Friedman was Master of Ceremonies and presented the award to the students, and also autographed copies of his new book for the students. Mia and Grace then were allowed to screen their film. The girls were fantastic representatives of all of our eighth-grade students,” Schauer said.
Having the students’ work acknowledged by a person who had lived through the Holocaust himself was a highlight of the experience. “It was absolutely a once in a lifetime opportunity. It was a beautiful ceremony with an audience full of Holocaust survivors and their family members. Mia and Grace’s video was shown and they both gave brief speeches,” Mia’s mother, Beth Stitt, said.
For Grace’s mother, Anne Nesbit, the connections the students made between history and the world around them was crucial. “I am proud that they tied their message to bullying and emphasized that just one person can make a difference. The fact that young people have a voice and that the Holocaust Center for Humanity acknowledged them was not lost,” she said.
The Holocaust Center for Humanity on Dismantling Hate through Education
4Culture | June 25, 2019 | by Sydney Dratel
The Holocaust Center for Humanity teaches the lessons of the Holocaust, inspiring students of all ages to confront bigotry and indifference, promote human dignity, and take action. In this guest post, Grants Manager and Communications Associate Sydney Dratel shares about the process of enacting change in education:
Founded in 1989, we are a museum and educational resource center that uses the Holocaust as a lens through which to engage and educate our community on issues of discrimination, tolerance, civic engagement, and the difference one person can make. From fall 2018 through spring 2019, the Holocaust Center worked with Washington State Senator Ann Rivers, the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle, and the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) to research, draft, and ultimately pass into law bipartisan Holocaust education bill SB5612.
In 1992, three years after our organization’s founding, Holocaust survivors and Holocaust Center staff lobbied for a Washington State Holocaust education mandate. However, the bill that passed was a curriculum recommendation, which did not have a large enough impact on Holocaust education in Washington State. Three decades later, in 2018, Holocaust education was still an issue, and retired teacher Hannelore Tweed—who taught history for 30 years at Camas High School, supplemented with many Holocaust Center resources—approached Senator Ann Rivers about lobbying for stronger Holocaust education legislation in our state.
In October, I traveled to La Center along with our Baral Family Executive Director Dee Simon, a lobbyist, and an employee of the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle to meet with Senator Ann Rivers about this legislation. In response to this successful meeting, we spent months researching, drafting, writing, and rewriting the language of the bill. We included the teaching of other genocides and crimes against humanity and the stipulation that the Holocaust Center for Humanity would work with OSPI to create guidelines and best practices for these topics. Also added was a clause stating that after two years, the Holocaust Center will make recommendations to the state on the future of Holocaust education in Washington.
After gathering support from dozens of teachers and organizations across the state, a group of Holocaust Center staff traveled to Olympia with Holocaust survivors, members of our Teacher Advisory Board, and a member of our Student Leadership Board to testify in front of the House and Senate Education committees. None of the teachers, students, or survivors had testified in support of legislative bills before, but their passion for this bill helped them brush aside their nerves, and each person gave compelling, personal, and powerful testimony.
We were thrilled to see that SB5612 was widely embraced by senators and representatives, passing unanimously through both education committees. Legislators’ votes were often accompanied by moving remarks by those who had family histories related to World War II and the Holocaust and therefore understood first-hand the importance of Holocaust education. This bill is a huge step towards ensuring that every student in our state has equal access to quality Holocaust education.
Studies show that Holocaust education effectively teaches students about antisemitism, bigotry, and the consequences of indifference. This legislation could not be more timely, as antisemitic incidents are higher than they’ve been in almost 20 years: 2017 showed a 60% increase in antisemitic events, a staggering 32% increase in hate crimes in Washington State, and K-12 schools have been reporting disturbing increases in hate-based incidents. At the Holocaust Center for Humanity, we use Holocaust education as a powerful tool to dismantle hate and inspire action, and we know that SB5612 will aid us in carrying out our mission and reaching even more students across Washington State.
Announcing the 2019 Excellence in Scholarship Holocaust paper prize winner
Stroum Center for Jewish Studies | June 13, 2019
The Stroum Center for Jewish Studies, in collaboration with Seattle’s Holocaust Center for Humanity, is proud to announce the 2019 winner of the Excellence in Scholarship Holocaust paper prize, awarded every year for an outstanding undergraduate paper related to Holocaust studies.
Jacqueline Goodrich, a history major who will graduate in 2020, received this year’s prize for her paper “Photography versus Storytelling in the Realm of Historical Study,” which analyzes the ethics of depicting atrocities like the Holocaust through depersonalized photographs of suffering, as opposed to individual portraits and personal narratives.
Writes the selection committee, “We were impressed by the theoretical sophistication and historical sensitivity displayed in this paper. Meditating on the strengths and pitfalls of photography as a catalyst for the formation of historical memory about the Holocaust, the author argues that storytelling is a crucial supplement to photography, because photographs, taken by themselves, often fail to ‘foster a connection between the past and the present’ and can even numb us to the suffering of the victims.
“Examining the work of Seattle-based artist Miha Sarani, as well as Art Spiegelman’s well-known graphic novel Maus, the author shows how less ‘realistic’ representations of atrocity can paradoxically be more effective in conveying the reality of those horrors to contemporary audiences through their narrative power.”
Goodrich concludes her paper by contrasting the anonymous suffering depicted in “atrocity photography” with the genuine sense of connection and loss that individual stories can inspire, reflecting:
"If people of the present can relate to and understand the humanity of just one of the victims in the past, they have come one step closer to ensuring that such horrors will not be repeated. As the generation who have directly experienced the horrors of World War II fades away, it is even more critical to record these stories as the best link historians have available to connect with and understand the past."
As well as majoring in history, Jacqueline Goodrich hopes to minor in Jewish studies, and plans to write her senior thesis on Holocaust history. After graduating in 2020, Goodrich intends to attend medical school and to pursue a career as a physician.
The Holocaust paper prize is made possible through the generosity of Stroum Center for Jewish Studies donors and the Holocaust Center for Humanity. Special thanks to Dee Simon, Baral Family Executive Director of the Holocaust Center for Humanity, for her work in helping to make the prize possible.
It's Not Another Teenage Wasteland: Mario Falit-Baimonte
Jewish in Seattle | June 12, 2019 | By Claire Butwinick
IT’S NOT EVERY DAY THAT A HIGH SCHOOLER gets invited to the state capital, but Mario Falit-Baiamonte is not your everyday high schooler. On April 19th, the 16-year-old watched Gov. Jay Inslee sign Senate Bill 5612, which will encourage Holocaust education in public schools across the state. The teen spent months supporting the bill and even testified in front of the legislature. Now, his hard work is paying off. “[It] just feels so good when these bills get passed,” he says. “What really keeps me going and doing all of this work is when I can see that what I’ve done has some kind of effect. That just feels really good.”
Ever since he took an eye-opening middle school course on genocide at Licton Springs K-8 School, Falit-Baiamonte has turned his passion for Holocaust education into action. For the past four years, he’s been on the Holocaust Center for Humanity’s Student Leadership Board serving as an ambassador and spreading the word about Holocaust remembrance. He says that with the rise of hate speech and the dwindling number of survivors, we need to educate about the Holocaust more than ever.
Falit-Baiamonte’s contagious excitement for social justice also stretches into his role in student government at Seattle’s Nathan Hale High School. Last year, he helped organize his school’s walkout to prevent gun violence and spoke at the rally afterward at the University of Washington. This spring, he also facilitated a school-wide walkout about climate change.
Falit-Baiamonte already has years of public service under his belt, but his journey is just getting started. Earlier this year, the teen announced his plan to run for mayor in 2021. While he’s not expecting to win, the potential candidate is excited to bring a youthful voice to the ballot. “I think that when young people come to the table and talk about issues they care about, that can change the narrative for the better,” he says. “And that’s what I would be trying to accomplish by running for mayor.”
School Nathan Hale
Role Model Late Holocaust survivor Steve Adler
Meeker students place in Holocaust Center for Humanity's Writing, Art, & Film Contest
Kent Reporter | May 30, 2019
Two Meeker Middle School eighth-graders won prizes in the Holocaust Center for Humanity’s 2019 Writing, Art, & Film Contest.
Rumela Weldeyesus tied for first place and Leyna Nguyen was third in the middle-school art category.
Taking inspiration from the stories of local Holocaust survivors, students throughout the Pacific Northwest used their creativity to honor these individuals through art, film, and writing.
Contest winners will be honored in a community awards ceremony at 4 p.m. Sunday, June 2 at the Henry and Sandra Friedman Holocaust Center for Humanity, 2045 2nd Ave., Seattle.
This year, hundreds of students from more than 60 schools entered the contest.
“When the entries pour in from students around the state, from rural and urban public schools, parochial schools, students who are homeschooled – really all over – we see that students strive and genuinely intend to improve our world. It’s very inspiring, and tells us that our work at the center is as important today as it’s ever been,” said Ilana Cone Kennedy, director of education for the center.
The full list of winners and their work can be viewed at holocaustcenterseattle.org.
The Evergreen State Has a White Nationalism Problem
Jewish in Seattle Magazine | April 15, 2019 | By Gregory Gutterman Scruggs
In March, a photo surfaced of two Mercer Island High School students giving a Nazi salute. Shortly before that, in January, Eastside residents found anti-immigrant flyers packaged with Snickers bars directing them to bloodandsoil.org, a web address for hate group Patriot Front. And just prior to that, in November, a West Seattle family awoke to the message “F--- JEW THIEVES” on the sidewalk and “JEW” spray-painted on their house.
Despite our region’s reputation as an inclusive, tolerant community, anti-Semitism is a prejudice with long roots in the Pacific Northwest,and it is resurging in this place we call home. But from Jewish groups to law enforcement, the community is not standing idly by as accounts of swastika graffiti, Holocaust denial, and Jewish conspiracy theories swell.
Anti-Semitic bias incidents, such as vandalism, assault, and harassment, are indisputably on the rise nationally. According to the Anti-Defamation League, from 2016 to 2017 such incidents increased by 57 percent, and in K–12 schools the increase was 94 percent. Locally, the FBI’s hate crime index also demonstrates an uptick. Since the agency began tracking hate crimes by state in 1992, incidents tagged “anti-Jewish” in Washington have ranged from a low of 6 to a high of 25. In 2017, the number hit an all-time high of 43 — up from 19 the year before, the highest since 1993.
Dee Simon, Baral Family Executive Director of the Holocaust Center for Humanity, fields plenty of inquiries from concerned educators after they discover a swastika scrawled on a locker or find out that a Jewish student was told to “go back to Israel.”
“More often than not, teachers tell us the students don’t know what they’re saying,” she says. “It doesn’t come from deep-seated anti-Semitism, it comes from ignorance.” Simon adds that online searches can lead students to conspiracy theories and misinformation, like searches for “Rothschild” that point to conspiracy theories about Jewish financiers, not reputable sources on the European banking family.
The center provides a cutting-edge curriculum that uses the example of the Holocaust as a lesson about halting all forms of bigotry. It also offers school tours of its exhibit, a combined effort that has reached roughly one-quarter of Washington students en route to a goal that every child in the state receive some measure of Holocaust education. New this year, the center has a 10-unit flexible curriculum specifically geared toward Jewish educational settings like day schools and synagogue youth programs.
Local incidents plus the attack in Pittsburgh spurred her organization to become even more proactive. The center launched a free class for adults, “Confronting Anti-Semitism and Intolerance,” with the ADL that will be offered at least 15 times in 2019. The interactive three-hour session includes a museum tour to emphasize how Nazi-era anti-Semitic propaganda fueled the Holocaust, then moves to contemporary forms of anti-Semitism that are more subtle than the Nuremberg laws of the 1930s.
For example, the course explains anti-Semitic dog whistles, or code words, like “globalist” and the online communication use of triple parentheses, also known as the echo effect, to indicate that someone is Jewish. It also explores how to distinguish criticism of Israeli policy from anti-Semitism, a debate that raged in Congress over comments made by Minnesota congresswoman Ilhan Omar in March.
The class concludes with a model called the Pyramid of Hate, which articulates how small but widespread acts of discrimination at the bottom of the pyramid can eventually escalate to the top of the pyramid, where a genocide like the Holocaust occurs.
“What is our role as average citizens to tear down that bottom level of the Pyramid of Hate?” Simon asks. “The Holocaust is a well-documented case of what can happen if you don’t pay attention and don’t watch the little things.”
Survivor helps pass law for Holocaust education in Washington Schools
King5 | May 2, 2019 | By Drew Mikkelsen
83-year-old Peter Metzelaar tells his story with the hope that what happened to him will never happen again.
The Holocaust survivor usually speaks to students. But earlier this year, he testified before lawmakers, encouraging them to pass a bill that “strongly encourages” schools to include lessons on the Holocaust in middle and high schools.
Governor Jay Inslee signed the bill into law in April.
Under the new law, the Holocaust could be made a mandatory part of school curriculum by 2022.
Born in Amsterdam in 1935, Metzelaar lost his father, aunt, uncle and grandparents in World War II after they were all arrested by the Nazis and murdered in the gas chambers of the Auschwitz concentration camp.
Metzelaar and his mother escaped the Nazis by hiding at a rural Dutch farm for two years.
Representing the Holocaust Center for Humanity, Metzelaar tells his story to students in middle and high schools around the country.
“I was there,” Metzelaar told 8th graders at Bremerton’s Mountain View Middle School on Wednesday.
He explained how students, the same age as the 8th graders, were systematically rounded up and murdered by the Nazis.
During a speech that brought some students to tears, he called Auschwitz the “most inhumane piece of hell that man ever created for man.”
Metzelaar hopes his presentation will teach the students that differences should be overcome with tolerance, not violence.
He said it’s a message that is still important.
“You can truly say that it (Holocaust) had to with Germany and the Jewish people,” said Metzelaar. “But you can almost go beyond that in today's setting… what mankind is capable of doing to mankind.”
Visiting Author Delivers Passionate Account of Holocaust Survivors
The Clipper | April 17, 2019 | By Heather Stribling
EvCC’s Humanities Alliance welcomed guest speaker and author, Karen Treiger, from the Holocaust Center for Humanity, on April 17.
Treiger was a Seattle attorney for 18 years before ultimately leaving her practice to write the story of her in-laws, who were both Holocaust survivors.
“I was very concerned their story would die with them,” said Treiger. She said it was in danger of becoming like a game of telephone. She knew exactly what would happen to the stories if they weren’t preserved, and said it would only get worse as the generations “went on.”
With her youngest child leaving for college, and an empty nest in sight, she saw her chance to help the story survive. She thought, “If I’m going to do this, I’m going to do this now.”
So, Treiger set out on a journey of discovery and spent three years researching the story of Sam and Esther Goldberg. Her efforts culminated in her book, “My Soul is Filled with Joy: A Holocaust Story,” published in 2018.
In her speech on Wednesday, titled, “Sam & Esther: Escape, Rescue & Resilience,” she took the audience on a journey with the young Goldbergs through Nazi-invaded Poland, death camps and hiding places including a forest, a pit and an orchard with a “family of righteous gentiles.”
Sam and Esther’s story played out like a riveting movie, reminding the audience of the horrors endured by so many millions, and the kindness and bravery of those willing to risk everything to protect them.
The Goldbergs’ individual survival stories were filled with incredible feats of daring escape and near-misses. Sam was one of only 65 Jews to escape the death camp, Treblinka, where 870,000 people were murdered. Esther’s entire family was killed by the Einsatzgruppen, a Nazi death squad, in their hometown while she was in the hospital with typhus.
The Goldbergs met in a forest shortly after Sam’s escape from Treblinka, and were assisted by a Polish family who had been previously helping Esther. Treiger says Esther had “used her golden tongue” to talk the family into hiding them both.
In 2016, Treiger was able to visit the small town and forest in Poland where Sam and Esther had hidden for nearly a year. She saw, firsthand, the forest where they met and the remnants of the pit they had dug for hiding.
Through the course of her research, Treiger was able to track down the three surviving grandchildren of the original families who helped to hide her in-laws. During her visit to Poland, she met with one of the grandsons and shared with him the story of how his grandparents had helped save Sam and Esther’s lives. The grandson replied (in Polish), “My soul is filled with joy,” and thus the name of her manuscript was born.
After the Soviets freed the town where Sam and Esther were hiding, the Goldbergs were able to go to a Displaced Persons Camp (DP camp) in postwar, American-occupied Munich.
From there, they waited four years for visas to America and would eventually arrive in New York Harbor in 1949. Treiger said, “They came with no English, they came penniless, and they came traumatized. It’s not so different from refugees coming to our shores today, who come with those three adjectives as well.”
Treiger concluded with a call to action. “We all have to be part of the solution to this horror that happens over and over throughout history. We have to be a part of the change.”
The Humanities Alliance and the Holocaust Center for Humanity will welcome three more speakers this spring, on select Wednesdays from 12:20-1:20. For more information and details on future Holocaust Survivor forums, visit https://www.everettcc.edu/programs/communications/humanities/holocaust-survivor-forums
Holocaust Survivor Shares Experience at Maple View Middle School
Voice of the Valley | March 18, 2019 | By Tahoma Matters
Maple View Middle School eighth-graders have studied the Holocaust this year and now they have heard a first-hand account from one of its survivors.
Peter Metzelaar, a speaker with the Holocaust Center for Humanity in Seattle, spoke to Maple View’s 340 eighth-grade students last week, as they gathered in the auxiliary gym. He shared about how he and his mother were able to hide for more than two years on a farm and later escaped the Nazis with the help of an officer from Adolf Hitler’s forces.
“It’s something that I survived and I lived through,” Metzelaar said. He began by sharing Webster’s definition of Holocaust: The total destruction of people by fire. Metzelaar also gave several examples to try to help the students envision what it means to say that 6 million people were murdered by Hitler. By percentage, he pointed out that only about 34 of the students in the crowd would have survived. Or, take the tragedy of 9/11, when 3,000 people died — and multiply that number by 2,000. The number of Jewish people murdered was nearly as many as the total population of the state of Washington (about 7 million people), Metzelaar explained.
He shared with the students about the Nuremberg Laws, and the invasion of Holland, where he and his family lived. As a child of only 7, Metzelaar didn’t understand what was happening when people from his neighborhood began being taken away by German soldiers.
“Nobody knew — where were these people taken, and for what purpose?” he recalled, trying to convey the terror and confusion that he felt when the Nazis pulled up in front of his family’s apartment complex in the middle of the night. Soldiers were yelling, doors slamming and babies crying. The next day, several of his friends were not in school, he said. Soon after that, his aunt and uncle were taken away, and not long after, his grandmother and grandfather.
One day in June of 1942, Metzelaar’s mother, Elli, sat him down. She cried as she explained that his father had been arrested. “That’s the last we ever saw or heard of him again,” he said.
Somehow Elli Metzelaar was able to get in touch with the Dutch Underground, a network of people who helped save the lives of Jewish people. The mother and son were offered a place to live and hide with Klaas and Roelfina (pronounced Klaus and Roefina) Post, who owned a small farm in Holland.
“They were so, so, so courageous,” Metzelaar said, recalling how hard the Post family worked and how kindly they treated him and his mother. The Germans began searching for Jewish people who were in hiding, and the raids grew more and more frequent. Early on, the pair would hide under the floorboards in a hole that Klaas created and covered with a rug to mask the location. The searchers walked directly over their heads, Metzelaar said. “All it would have taken was one cough, one sneeze, one hiccup, and it would have been all over.”
Later Metzelaar and Klaas worked to dig out a cave in a nearby wooded area and disguise it with branches so that the pair could hide there, instead, for the raids, which lasted up to 90 minutes.
“I was always afraid this was going to cave in,” he said, recalling that at age 8 he knew and understood that there were people who wanted to kill him. He still wondered: Where were his father, grandfather, grandmother — and what would happen to his mother?
After being with the Post family for more than two years, Elli Metzelaar became worried that they would be caught and killed for sheltering her and Peter. She reached out to the Dutch Underground for a new hiding place, and they moved to an apartment in the city with two women. Living there, the two were frequently hungry, and Elli found out that the women planned to turn them over to the Nazis. So, she asked the underground for a third placement. Then, she sewed a nurse’s uniform and sneaked Peter out of the apartment in the middle of the night. The only way to get to their new hiding place was on a highway that was reserved for the German military. With incredible bravery, Elli signaled for a ride. She had told Peter to stay quiet, and when an SS (Schutzstaffel, or Hitler’s elite force) officer stopped his truck, Elli convinced him that she worked for the International Red Cross and was assigned to transport an orphan.
“He put us in the truck, and they took us to Amsterdam,” Metzelaar exclaimed. “How did she come up with that plan? The enemy took us to Amsterdam — I get excited every time I tell that part.”
In May of 1945, Canadian forces liberated Holland. Peter Metzelaar was 10 years old.
“The war was over. No one in my family returned,” Metzelaar said. He and his mother moved to New York when he was 13. Fifty years later with his family, he returned to Europe, and they traveled to Poland. “Twenty minutes outside Krakow was the largest piece of hell ever created, Auschwitz-Birkenau Death Camp.” Metzelaar told the students some of what went on at the concentration camp, where crematoriums would burn 24 hours a day, and as many as 4,000 people were murdered in one day.
He shared a bit about propaganda and how the Nazis used it.
“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it,” Metzelaar said. He encouraged the students to continue learning, and to use critical thinking skills. “Be tolerant. Not everybody prays the same. Not everybody looks the same.”
On the same family trip, the Metzelaars traveled to Holland and tried to find the Post family to thank them. Although the couple had died, Peter Metzelaar was able to find the farmhouse and the cave where he and his mother hid — and survived.
From Minecraft to Moral Courage: A Visit to the Holocaust Center for Humanity
ParentMap | March 8, 2019 | By Natalie Singer-Velush
It can be hard for an adult to access history, even as we generally understand the importance of the past in contextualizing the present and shaping the future. It can be doubly hard for a child to relate to the past, and to the facts and events that seem as removed from their modern-day reality — school, friends and Minecraft — as life on another planet.
I talk to my children about history all the time because I believe it’s the only way to map our collective successes and failures as humans — and to improve. Sometimes my tween and young teen listen; other times I can tell they are thinking, "How does this even relate to me at all? What is she even talking about? I’m busy trying to decide what to do about this Minecraft mob. Blah blah blah."
The power of storytelling
We know that a key way to communicate difficult subjects and to connect emotionally to them is through story, and luckily for parents and educators in the Puget Sound region, Seattle’s Holocaust Center for Humanity has a unique understanding of how to teach history, and consequently, empathy, through storytelling.
My family and I went for a visit to the Center's interactive new exhibit, “Finding Light in the Darkness.”
Touring the exhibit, we encountered a variety of easily detachable cards — hanging on the walls at kid level. Visitors can grab and read these at any time.
On side one of a card we read:
1939, May 27–28, Saturday–Sunday
Straits of Florida
77 degrees F, calm at 10 knots
The ocean liner St. Louis is turned away from both Havana, Cuba, and Miami, Florida. Over 900 European Jewish refugees on board are instead forced back to Europe. Most did not survive the Holocaust.
And on the second side of the card:
On this day…
In Seattle: The biggest local news involves the Prince and Princess of Norway, who end their tour of the Northwest by visiting a memorial to Norwegian immigrants.
Local survivor: Joe Lewinsohn: In May 1939, Joe and his family escape Berlin for Shanghai, China, where they joined over 17,000 other Jewish refugees in what eventually became known as the Shanghai or Hongkew Ghetto.
In just over 100 words, which is about what my teen daughter consumes in five minutes of scrolling on Instagram, a child in 2019 can instantly connect what happened across the globe 80 years ago. Kids also connect this moment in history with headlines they have seen on modern-day refugee crises, with the Pacific Northwest history they might be more familiar with and with their natural sense of justice. And don’t we all know how strong our kids’ sense of justice is? There’s nothing more intense than a kid who has been the victim of or witness to an act of unfairness.
Justice and hope
That sense of justice and the human desire for hope are at the center of the new exhibit.
Instead of being bombarded with grim war facts, visitors to the center are invited to hear, see and touch artifacts that represent stories of hope and survival. The carefully curated and thoughtful exhibit shines a spotlight on local survivors, such as Thomas Blatt, who visitors learn was 16 years old when his family was deported by Nazis to the death camp Sobibor. His family was killed upon arrival but Thomas was put to labor. On Oct. 14, 1943, the prisoners in Sobibor, including Thomas, staged a revolt; Thomas was one of the few who survived, and he eventually came to live in Seattle.
Credit: Natalie Singer-Velush
The exhibit’s layered stories open windows into the experiences of children caught up in the war through short pamphlets, childhood photographs and connected objects that hold meaning and convey emotion. When kids touring the center see a tin food bowl preserved behind plexiglass they can learn that food bowls were of critical importance to prisoners — without a bowl, one would starve to death. When they “meet” the young hero Thomas Blatt, they discover that when he learned he would be part of a prisoner revolt, he carefully buried his own food bowl in the camp.
During our tour, my daughters connected most to the powerful theme of bullying, surfaced in myriad ways throughout the exhibit. The stories encourage visitors to think about what it means to be complicit to injustice, either directly or indirectly, and to broaden our understanding of what bullying is and how we can all be upstanders in the face of it. It’s a message that feels particularly important right now with U.S. and world events as they are.
For decades now, social and behavioral scientists have studied the Holocaust to try to understand what it is that compels humans to be cruel to their fellow humans, and why some of us stand by while few others intervene. It was in the testimonies of those few people who did intervene, risking their own lives to save victims during the Holocaust, that an answer emerged.
“They were driven by what you call moral courage,” Dee Simon, the center’s executive director and daughter of a survivor featured in the exhibit, told me.
“Finding Light In the Darkness” shows our children what moral courage looks like and why they are the carriers of hope for our current and future generations. This formidable exhibit will inspire visitors to apply their sense of justice to modern-day crises — big and small — and in doing so make the world a better place.
New exhibit at Holocaust Center in Seattle features stories of local survivors
KIRO 7 | February 6, 2019 | By Patranya Bhoolsuwan
A new exhibit opened for the public Wednesday at the Holocaust Center for Humanity in Seattle.
It's called "Finding Light in the Darkness," and it's a historical walk through time to inspire visitors to speak out against hate.
The exhibit features stories of the Holocaust survivors who call Washington state home, including that of 88-year-old Steve Adler.
“I believe very strongly this is the most hopeful place in the city,” said Adler, who was born in Germany in 1930.
12 members of his family, including his paternal grandparents, were killed in concentration camps during World War II.
He said the lesson he wants people to take away from the exhibit is to embrace the differences in others.
“Our society has to be open to people who are not quite like us,” said Adler. “Whether it be ethnic, religious, I don’t care. It doesn’t make a difference.”
The story of Ingrid Kanis Steppic’s family was also featured at this new exhibit. Her family was part of the Dutch Resistance who helped shelter Jews during in the period of Nazi Germany.
“The more details you know about how it came about, the more you can try to prevent that,” said Steppic, who also volunteers as a docent at the Holocaust Center.
The Center’s Baral Family Executive Director, Dee Simon, said the stories and lessons behind this exhibit are still relevant today.
“Hate crimes are rising all over the country,” said Simon. “It’s through the lens of the Holocaust that we can examine situations that occur in the past and those we see today.”
The Holocaust Museum is open to the public Sundays and Wednesdays 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
This Seattle Student Believes 'Change Begins with Me'
ParentMap | January 29, 2019 | By Patty Lindley
Nathan Hale High School sophomore Mario Falit-Baiamonte is half Jewish, but growing up, he didn’t know much about the Holocaust; it wasn’t really discussed all that often in his family, he says. But that changed in the seventh grade when he took a Holocaust studies class at Licton Springs K–8 School in North Seattle. As part of the class, his history teacher took the students on a field trip to tour the Holocaust Center for Humanity.
“I am having trouble remembering what exactly I knew about the Holocaust before then and what I didn’t, but if I knew anything, it wasn’t much, and I was really interested by the whole thing,” he says.
A couple of weeks after the tour, Falit-Baiamonte learned that the center was starting a student leadership board, and his teacher encouraged him to apply. He was selected to join the inaugural board and remains an active member. Ilana Cone Kennedy, director of education at the Holocaust Center for Humanity, recalls, “Mario was full of passion and eager to ask questions and learn more. He is now in his fourth year on our board, and it has been incredible to see him channel this same passion into social justice issues both in and out of school.”
Falit-Baiamonte’s middle school experience of studying the historical lessons of the Holocaust and tracing its intergenerational impact and relevance to what is going on in the world today is perhaps a rarer exposure to the subject matter than many parents might imagine. Young Americans are disturbingly ignorant about the Holocaust because a majority of schools aren’t teaching them about it. “At my school, there’s no Holocaust education even included in the history department. The only thing is in the language arts department in ninth-grade year, when you read the book ‘Night’ by Elie Wiesel. … I guess I do think that I had a bit of a unique experience getting that course, and that’s what got me involved [at the Holocaust Center for Humanity],” says Falit-Baiamonte.
Through its education programs and community events, the Holocaust Center for Humanity is dedicated to its mission to ensure that as many classrooms as possible across the state can receive high-quality Holocaust education. In his capacity as a member of its student leadership board, Falit-Baiamonte is one of about 20 members who operate as youth ambassadors and advisers for the center, helping to plan and support its projects, events and initiatives. The 16-year-old is enthusiastic about getting to play a part in bringing awareness about the realities of the Holocaust to his school and the wider community. He fervently believes that Holocaust education has a potent and essential application in teaching today’s students about the degree to which unchecked bigotry, intolerance and indifference in our schools and communities could potentially escalate. “Obviously, it’s the Holocaust Center, but we also spend a lot of time talking about other genocides and horrible atrocities that go on nowadays,” he says.
Falit-Baiamonte traces his interest in social justice issues and politics back to age 6 when he watched the inauguration of President Barack Obama, and he has been actively involved in student government since middle school. Last year, he played a key role in organizing his Nathan Hale classmates to join the nationwide student walkout protesting gun violence in the wake of the Parkland, Florida, school shooting. He had the distinction of introducing Mayor Jenny Durkan at the culminating rally that converged on the University of Washington’s Red Square that day.
Falit-Baiamonte’s avid dedication to school politics prompts me to ask him an annoying-adult question: Do you see a career in politics in your future? He charms me with his answer. “Definitely. I think it’s the best way for me to make a difference, and … I think it is important to get your message out early, even if you can’t win at the beginning.” What does he mean by this? Well, he started a crowdfunding page last year to raise money for his potential campaign in the 2021 Seattle mayoral race — not necessarily with the intention of winning, he says, but “with the intention of getting a good message out and trying to bring some change.”
Editor's note: This article was sponsored by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Building Cultures of Peace, Understanding, and Inclusion
ParentMap | January 29, 2019 | by Malia Jacobson
When some West Seattle residents woke to discover anti-Semitic graffiti spray-painted across the side of their garage last November, many neighbors were shaken and sad. But they weren’t particularly shocked. According to a recent FBI report, Washington’s rate of hate crimes is nearly twice the national average, increasing 32 percent from 2016 to 2017. Over the same time period, Seattle’s reported hate crimes doubled, from 118 to 234.
Nationwide, the Evergreen State ranks third for the number of per-capita hate crimes — from threats and acts of violence to rapes and homicides — behind Washington, D.C., and Kentucky. And it means that scrawled ethnic slurs and other displays of hate are increasingly common in a corner of the country that many associate with pristine natural scenery, an undaunted spirit that prioritizes perpetual innovation and progressive human potential, and a casual, live-and-let-live culture of tolerance.
For local parents, educators and youth advocates, scrambling to soothe fear, affirm safety and advocate for change in the wake of each hate-driven incident is daunting. So is working to shift a local culture that’s hardly isolated — what’s boiling over in Seattle is simmering nearly everywhere else across the United States, thanks to longstanding tensions around race, gender and religion.
Anti-Semitic vandalism is a troubling symbol of a broader intolerance that extends beyond religion, says Ilana Cone Kennedy, director of education for Seattle’s Holocaust Center for Humanity.
“Anti-Semitism doesn’t exist in a bubble — it’s a red flag for a climate of intolerance and racism,” she notes. “I’ve worked [at the center] since 2003, and I don’t remember ever getting the number of calls about these types of acts that we’re getting now.”
Apathy and injustice in Seattle
Rising intolerance in the laid-back, progressive Northwest isn’t as puzzling as it might seem when viewed through the lens of the region’s history of racial injustice, says Tacoma-based youth coach and advocate Lisa J. Keating, founder and CEO of antibullying and LGBTQ advocacy organization My Purple Umbrella.
“In the Pacific Northwest, we may be tolerant, but we’re not accepting. We want to appear inclusive, but we haven’t really healed from our history of oppressing indigenous people. We haven’t done restorative justice. It’s all intertwined. And the assumption is, if it doesn’t affect me, it’s not a problem,” says Keating.
The resulting apathy feeds bystander culture: the perception that we can skirt personal responsibility for wrongs committed by and against others so long as we don’t actively take part in perpetrating them. This creates a breeding ground for hateful acts in seemingly peaceful neighborhoods populated by people who are quick to denounce hate but slow to examine their own prejudices. “We’re passive-aggressive about our cultural biases, and still not really working to address them,” says Keating.
The Pacific Northwest is still one of the whitest regions in the United States, with local neo-Nazi groups working to attract white supremacists to Washington, Oregon and Idaho. “The Northwest has always been a home for white supremacist groups, which feeds into our culture,” says Kennedy. “But Seattle likes to see itself as extremely liberal, so we’ve fooled ourselves into thinking we don’t have these kinds of issues, and we’re caught off guard when we do.”
Talking about tolerance
Addressing problems created by systemic racial oppression, emboldened hate groups and apathetic bystanders starts with rethinking the term “tolerance.” The term implies passivity instead of inclusion, acceptance or understanding, says Keating. “I think ‘tolerance’ is too narrow in its scope. We’re evolved beyond that language. Beyond tolerance is acceptance and inclusion.”
“While ‘tolerance’ is passive, terms like ‘ally’ and ‘upstander’ are about standing up to the aggressor and standing with victims,” says Kennedy.
Building cultures that affirm and include marginalized groups means fostering understanding of the barriers faced by others, says Jeremiah J. Allen, strategic adviser for Transform Washington at Seattle’s Pride Foundation.
Celebrating differences is important, but the real work begins as celebrations end and brightly colored decorations are put away. “It’s great to celebrate, but understanding is what makes people feel accepted,” says Allen. “We need to build understanding at the intersections of race and gender and how these intersecting identities add up to and affect someone’s ability to access services or support.”
Rays of hope
An area in which Seattle’s progressive reputation may ring true is in its policy making. “While we’re not necessarily different from any other area in terms of safety or inclusion of marginalized groups, we do have nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people and students,” says Keating.
More such laws are on the horizon. Last year, Keating testified on behalf of legislation preventing harassment, intimidation and bullying of transgender students. Sponsored by Sen. Marko Liias, SB 5766 passed in the Senate in 2018.
Importantly, the bill states a requirement for “training of school district employees on policies and procedures related to nondiscrimination; transgender students; and antiharassment, intimidation and bullying.” Building capacity within each school is critical, because educators have their own biases to address and unlearn, says Keating.
Another recent win: Washington’s new law restricting the practice of conversion therapy on patients under age 18. [The bill report defines conversion therapy as any therapeutic regimen “that seeks to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity, including efforts to change behaviors or gender expressions, or to eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward individuals of the same sex.”] “It’s something that took years, but it sends a message of hope to a lot of people,” says Keating.
Seattle citizens are affecting federal change, too. Prompted by recent threats against religious sites, including synagogues, Mercer Island resident Joseph Schocken and U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer introduced bill S.994, establishing a criminal penalty for hate crimes that damage spaces or structures owned or leased by religious organizations. The bill passed in the U.S. House of Representatives and in the U.S. Senate in 2018.
There’s more hope on the horizon, too. “The Holocaust Center for Humanity is working with state legislators across party lines to ensure that the lessons of the Holocaust are standardized across all districts in Washington state,” says Holocaust Center for Humanity Executive Director Dee Simon. “As we speak, we’re working with legislators to develop a bill to bring Holocaust education to our schools.”
While laws aren’t an immediate fix for intolerance, they’re an important step, says Keating. “A law sets the bar of what is acceptable and what is not acceptable. It creates a standard to uphold.”
Building understanding in the classroom
Many local teachers can’t wait for new laws to be enacted and implemented, because they confront issues related to intolerance and hate every day — and more and more often these days — in their classrooms. One of the central missions of the Holocaust Center for Humanity is to provide antibias education and resources for teachers to use in their everyday work, says Kennedy. “One of the things that has really struck me is how many new teachers really want these resources in their classrooms. They see issues with intolerance, anti-Semitism and bias coming from their students. They’re looking for lessons about the Holocaust that they can use in an effective way.”
Teachers looking for this type of training can find it through the center’s in-person workshops for educators. In live sessions, as many as 30 teachers at a time learn about topics such as the American resistance to the Holocaust, “Holocaust 101” and how to address these pervasive issues in their classrooms.
During one weeklong summer workshop, which is now entering its fourth year, visiting scholars give presentations on topics such as the U.S. incarceration of Japanese-Americans during WWII and provide in-depth training on complex issues facing today’s teachers. Through these types of in-person trainings and resources (such as the popular Teaching Trunks free lending library of curated, age-specific Holocaust education materials), the center reaches 6,000 teachers each year, Kennedy says.
Teachers are interested in this type of training because it works, echoes Simon. “A number of studies show the importance of Holocaust education and its ability to increase empathy and self-awareness, as well as reduce bias and promote global citizenship,” she says. One study shows that acceptance of neo-Nazi beliefs is nearly seven times higher among people without awareness of the Holocaust than among those with even a passing knowledge of Holocaust history.
At home, approaching weighty, complex issues with kids is sometimes simpler than we think, Kennedy notes. “Often, parents come with more baggage and information than kids want or need, when what kids are really looking for are answers to their questions, such as ‘What’s happening?’ and ‘Do I need to be afraid?’ When we listen to their questions, we can guide our children without letting our own fears rub off on them.”
Where can parents start? Children’s books like “A Princess of Great Daring!” by Seattle author and activist Tobi Hill-Meyer, other titles published by Flamingo Rampant and titles by multicultural author Maya Gonzalez are disarming, accessible tools for introducing these topics to kids, says Keating. “With my own daughter Stella, these books let us look at these themes in age-appropriate ways. I just find children’s books to be amazing social justice tools.”
Independent bookstores such as Seattle’s Elliott Bay Book Company and Tacoma’s King’s Books give kids and families access to nearly endless conversational tools to help build understanding, inspire inclusion and encourage acceptance. King’s Books is home to My Purple Umbrella’s Queerest Book Club Ever, the region’s only book club for queer youth.
And what if parents have graver or more immediate cause for concern? Families with questions about their student’s civil rights can contact the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction’s (OSPI) Office of Equity and Civil Rights. “The OSPI has clearly stated guidelines and best practices, which lay out protections for students,” says Keating. “As a parent, if you have to go and have that scary conversation with your school principal and you find that you’re also having to do the educating, that’s overwhelming.”
Building cultures of understanding and acceptance doesn’t mean starting from scratch or working alone, says Allen. “We recommend collaborating with a community already doing this type of work. It’s okay to be afraid, and also okay to not know. We’re really interested in providing tools and opportunities for folks to learn.”
What’s encouraging is that grassroots efforts of just one teacher, one student or one family can make a meaningful difference, says Kennedy. “We’re finding that this type of education is working. We’re hearing from teachers and students that the climate in their classroom is changing, that the student culture is changing, that there’s a positive impact. For us, that’s the best evidence that [what we’re doing is] making a difference.”
Holocaust Survivor Shares Experiences for Day of Remembrance
The Spectator | January 30, 2019 | By Rania Kaur
With the rising prevalence of antisemitism, the revival of white nationalist movements, and a government that hesitates to condemn neo-Nazi rallies, Holocaust Remembrance Day plays a significant role in holding the tragic mass murder in conscious memory.
To honor the victims of this tragedy, Seattle University Campus Ministry, the Jewish Student Union, and Institute for Catholic Thought and Culture cosponsored an International Holocaust and Genocide Remembrance Day on Jan. 24. Seattle U invited survivor Henry Haas of the Holocaust Center for Humanity to share his story. Haas is the father of Seattle U’s Associate Vice President for Development, Kim Isaac Brooks.
Henry shared his childhood survival story with his wife Kate Haas. Kate documented the missing links of the story that Henry did not know, thanks to the oral history recorded by Henry’s mother in the late 90s and years of documentation. Now, Kate and Henry know all the details of how their family escaped.
Henry was just an infant when his paternal grandparents and parents planned their escape away from the coming Holocaust, though, the story of their survival began years prior to Hitler’s election. Knowing that something awful was about to occur due to conversations happening around him, Henry’s father gained Czechoslovakian citizenship in 1933, the same year that Hitler came into power.
Five years later, Henry was born in Berlin, Germany. After immigrating from country to country, Henry’s family made it to Shanghai, China— according to Henry, this was the only place in the entire world at the time that did not require a visa.
Henry was one of 17,000 Jewish people that escaped to Shanghai during the Holocaust. They lived in the Shanghai Ghetto during the Japanese Occupation, and in 1947, Henry’s family left for San Francisco. His family eventually settled in Tacoma, Washington in 1955, where Henry and Kate live still.
Today Henry is a lawyer, and received his degree from the University of Puget Sound. In 2015, Henry and his family went back to the locations of their apartments in Berlin, invited by the German government, officially recognizing the Holocaust and its tragedy.
The Holocaust took 55 of Henry’s direct family members’ lives. An estimated 17 million people were murdered during the Holocaust, including Romas, Slavs, people with disabilities, and an estimated 6 million Jews. Henry and Kate found out what happened to their family members that his family through extensive records kept by the Nazis.
After Henry and Kate told their story, the room was silent and full of hearts heavy for those that lost their lives. Campus Ministry brought a series of reflective questions that each table had the opportunity to discuss.
“I think it’s important to remember that we need to treat the Holocaust as less like a past thing that’s just done but something that we need to keep remembering,” said First-year Sociology and Creative Writing Major Keira Cruickshank as she reflected on the first question.
Zoe Rogan is a first-year creative writing major and was glad she was able to attend the event.
“I feel really lucky to hear a Holocaust survivor speak since, as the Holocaust does get further away in history, there’s fewer and fewer people who are alive to talk about it,” Rogan said. “It’s scary that as we’re getting further and further away, we have more people denying it ever happened and fewer people that were there and can say it did happen. I feel very lucky to hear a Holocaust survivor speak and tell their story.”
David Stephen is the newly appointed Interim Director of Housing and Residence Life. He attended and listened to Haas’ story on Thursday.
“My wife has, you know, a personal history around this, and she’s not here,” Stephen said. “I wanted to honor her…This is day 15 for me at Seattle U, and it’s a way for me to become enculturated into this university. I attended the MLK event earlier this week, and it was wonderful. Seattle U does this right.”
Seattle’s Holocaust Center works with teachers to curb hatred as anti-Semitic attacks surge
Seattle Times | October 29, 2018 | By Paige Cornwell
A swastika painted on a school locker used to merit a report to Seattle’s Holocaust Center for Humanity. But amid a spike in anti-Semitic incidents leading up to the worst attack on Jewish Americans in U.S. history last Saturday, people aren’t making as many calls about graffiti anymore.
“The world has changed,” said Dee Simon, the organization’s Baral Family Executive Director. “You don’t hear about (those incidents) because it’s happening so often.”
Simon spoke by phone from the center’s downtown Seattle office on Monday, two days after a gunman opened fire at a Pittsburgh synagogue, killing 11 worshippers. The center has been inundated with calls from people throughout the region’s Jewish community offering sympathy and support, she said. The group will take part in Monday evening’s candlelight vigil at Temple De Hirsch Sinai on Capitol Hill.
News of the shooting brought back nightmarish memories for several employees, said Simon. Twelve years ago, the center was renting space in the same building as the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle when a gunman barged into their offices, killing one woman and wounding six others. Those employees still have a great deal of anxiety and fear, Simon said
Anti-Semitic incidents surged 57 percent in 2017 from a year earlier to almost 2000 across the U.S., according to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). That’s the highest number since the New York-based nonprofit rights group started keeping records in 1979. In Washington, those attacks rose almost sevenfold last year to 20, the data shows.
The incidents were grouped into three categories: harassment, vandalism and assault. They included the desecration of cemeteries in Indiana, Missouri, Pennsylvania, New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts.
Among the report’s most disturbing findings is the near doubling of reported incidents occurring in K-12 schools and university campuses. Although public areas, such as parks and streets, are where those incidents usually took, they have been surpassed by K-12 schools, it said. Although heightened sensitivity to bullying probably helped increase the number of reported incidents, it’s likely that Jewish students aren’t reporting all of the attacks against them because of the nature of schoolyard bullying, ADL said.
In the wake of the Pittsburgh shooting, the Holocaust Center is boosting efforts with Seattle-area teachers to address anti-Semitism and hate in their classrooms, Simon said. It’s important for the community to fight seemingly small acts of prejudice such as swastika markings because they can lead to discrimination, violence and ultimately murder, she added.
“Unless we talk about it and have these conversations, we risk hate becoming normalized,” Simon said. “It’s our responsibility to have these conversations among ourselves and our children, and ensure that this is always shocking. This is always an affront to humanity.”
New generation shares stories on Holocaust Remembrance Day
King5 News | April 15, 2018 | By Ted Land
Soon there will be no one to explain first-hand what they saw, heard, and felt during the Holocaust. A generation of survivors, now in their 90s, is disappearing.
Henry Friedman: "My enemy today is time."
Henry Friedman can still describe living in a Polish ghetto, then hiding in a barn to avoid the death camps and slowly starving before liberation.
"It took us many years for Holocaust survivors to be able to speak, to get over the pain that was inside of us."
Friedman and others are still able to gather at Seattle's Holocaust Center for Humanity to speak about what they witnessed. But who will tell these stories when the survivors are gone?
Jack Schaloum: "I felt there was a heavy responsibility that needed to be done."
Jack Schaloum is among a younger generation who now has the obligation of explaining the consequences of hate.
Jack Schaloum: "It was something that I needed to do."
Schaloum visits schools and talks on behalf of his late mother, Magda Schlaoum.
Magda Schaloum, in video testimony: "They took my brother away, and my mother was devastated."
Jack Schlaoum: "It haunted her until the day she passed."
Schaloum and Ingrid Steppic are what are called Legacy Speakers, keepers of their families stories, who picked up where their families left off.
Ingrid Steppic: "I didn't do this years ago. I was busy raising my own family. But later I realized if we don't tell the stories, they get lost."
They may not have the same painful perspective...
Henry Friedman: "Hatred is a virus."
But the message endures.
Henry Friedman: "The most important thing is not to hate."
'These were not nameless people' being killed by the Nazis
HeraldNet - Everett | April 13, 2018 | By Julie Muhlstein
Ingrid Kanis Steppic is a daughter of the Dutch resistance. She was born in 1943, three years after the Nazis invaded her homeland. Throughout the occupation, her parents sheltered and helped Jewish “hiders.”Ingrid Kanis Steppic is a daughter of the Dutch resistance. She was born in 1943, three years after the Nazis invaded her homeland. Throughout the occupation, her parents sheltered and helped Jewish “hiders.”
“It was very dangerous,” Steppic told students Wednesday at Everett Community College.
She was too young to have clear memories of life in The Netherlands during World War II. What she can share are the heroic and haunting experiences of her parents, Jan and Nel Kanis, during German occupation.
Her father Jan Kanis and an older sister were both imprisoned for their involvement with the Dutch underground. Her family wasn’t Jewish, but throughout the Nazis’ five-year hold on Holland they provided shelter, food and other help — assisting some 40 Jews in all.
Steppic, who is 74 and lives in Seattle, was the first of four speakers scheduled as part of EvCC’s Humanities 150D class, “Surviving the Holocaust.” She’s part of the Seattle-based Holocaust Center for Humanity’s speakers bureau. The annual Holocaust series, now in its 19th year, is open to the public.
For nearly two decades, the class has been taught by EvCC instructor Joyce Walker. She began Wednesday’s program with a mention of previous speakers who have died. They include Holocaust survivors Thomas Blatt, Fred Taucher and Robert Herschkowitz and Army veteran Leo Hymas, who was among the liberating forces. Their loss points to the importance of second-generation survivors as keepers of Holocaust memories.For nearly two decades, the class has been taught by EvCC instructor Joyce Walker. She began Wednesday’s program with a mention of previous speakers who have died. They include Holocaust survivors Thomas Blatt, Fred Taucher and Robert Herschkowitz and Army veteran Leo Hymas, who was among the liberating forces. Their loss points to the importance of second-generation survivors as keepers of Holocaust memories.
On Thursday, international Holocaust Remembrance Day or Yom Hashoah in Hebrew, The New York Times published a survey showing that many Americans lack knowledge of the Holocaust. According to the survey of 1,350 adults, 41 percent of them and 66 percent of millennials cannot say what Auschwitz was — the extermination camp in Poland. And 31 percent, or 41 percent of millennials, believe 2 million or fewer Jews — rather than 6 million — were killed.
A day before the Germans invaded Holland on May 10, 1940, the Kanis family had moved to the city of Amersfoort, where Jan Kanis managed the post office. The Dutch battled the Germans for just five days. Liberation wouldn’t come for five years, on May 5, 1945.
From his job, where he saw returned mail and death notices, Kanis knew early that Jews weren’t just being rounded up — they were being killed. He warned Jews not to register, and not to show up at the train station as ordered.
“These were not nameless people — they lived and worked in our town,” Steppic said.
The Kanis family, with five children, sheltered two Jewish couples. One couple, the Schnells, were later forced to dig their own graves before being shot to death by the Nazis, Steppic said. “All our other hiders did survive,” she said.
Her sister Ali was imprisoned at 17, Steppic said, for bringing money to striking rail workers. The Netherlands’ Queen Wilhelmina had fled to England, but sent word asking that railroads go on strike, a tactic meant to hinder German progress.
In 1944, Jan Kanis was sent to the Dachau concentration camp in Germany for taking part in a raid to get ration stamps. He survived, but was sickly when he came out of the camp in 1945.
His family had been feeding not only themselves, but those they were hiding. In what was called the “hongerwinter” of 1944-45, thousands of Dutch people starved to death. Steppic said many ate tulip bulbs.
Steppic showed a marker placed at Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial in Israel. In 1970, her parents were recognized at the memorial as the “Righteous Among the Nations.”
She still has sisters in The Netherlands. She married an American soldier, Richard Steppic, and moved to the United States in the 1960s.
Through email, she has been in touch with a New Jersey woman, Maud Dahme, who, during the war, was helped to hide by Jan Kanis. On the other side of the country, Dahme has shared her story of being a “hidden child.”
There was another Everett event in observance of Holocaust Remembrance Day. At Temple Beth Or, a Reform Jewish synagogue, six candles were lit in memory of the 6 million who died, and the Mourner’s Kaddish prayer was recited Wednesday evening.
That somber rite was followed by an educational program, “no. NOT EVER,” presented by the Seattle group If You Don’t They Will.
Temple Beth Or’s social action committee organized the gathering. It included discussions of white nationalist groups and tactics for countering racism. Participants included people from other faith communities and local organizations.
In small groups, people talked about possible responses to several scenerios: Students starting a “white pride” group at school; posters appearing that attack tribal fishing rights; or public art being vandalized with swastikas.
Pam Lonergan is a Temple Beth Or member from Monroe. After discussing anti-Semitism and other brands of hate in today’s world, she was asked about appropriate ways to remember the Holocaust. “This is it,” she said.
Holocaust Remembrance Fosters Familial Recollection at Naval Hospital Bremerton
Navy News Service | April 12, 2018 | By Douglas H. Stutz, Naval Hospital Bremerton Public Affairs
BREMERTON, Wash. (NNS) -- For Lt. Joseph Edouard, listening to Matthew Erlich share his mother's harrowing plight of concentration camp survival under the Nazis was more than a somber history lesson.
It was a vivid reminder of a personal family tragedy writ large.
Erlich, as key-note speaker discussed how his mother, Felicia Lewkowicz, endured arrest, internment, and death camp sentencing during the Second World War at Naval Hospital Bremerton's Holocaust Remembrance Observance on April 9, 2018.
The theme for this year's Holocaust Remembrance Day commemorated on April 12, 2018, was 'The Power of Words,' which Erlich, from the Holocaust Center for Humanity, used to explain the horror of the dehumanizing imprisonment and systematic genocide being carried out at that time that trapped his mother and countless others.
"She was born in Krakow, Poland, on June 24, 1924. She remembered playing along the Vistula River as a child," said Erlich, adding that Felicia grew up speaking Polish, along with Yiddish, a linguistic mix primarily of Hebrew and other local dialects from central and Eastern Europe.
A family photo taken in 1938 showing eight members was shortly reduced to just Felicia after Nazi Germany invaded Poland on Sept. 1, 1939. Krakow became a suffocating ghetto with the Jewish population persecuted, terrorized, and killed.
Edouard's family also experienced anti-Semitism in Budapest, Hungary. Although Hungary was a Nazi Germany ally in the early years of the war, by 1944 those sentiments had shifted. The initial understanding that no Hungarian Jews would be sent to Nazi Germany concentration camps suddenly became moot. Tens of thousands were rounded up and summarily shipped to their death.
The brother of Edouard's grandfather Paul Fejer was sent to a concentration camp never to be seen or heard from again.
Although Fejer wasn't shipped off to a camp, he ended up in a different kind of hell. He was detained and forced into a special Jewish working unit of the Hungarian Army that was tasked to carry out dangerous duties such as detecting landmines and entering fields of fire to retrieve wounded personnel.
"It was mind-boggling what he went through. They were given the most dangerous duties. It was like a death sentence but with a slim chance," related Edouard. "There was one time where he was given the choice of going with a group to the left or another group to the right and he chose the left group. Five minutes later the other group was blown up having stepped on a mine. He was lucky."
Erlich's mother finally took it upon herself to simply leave Krakow. She someone made it to the railway depot and climbed onboard a departing train without proper credentials, ample funds or a traveling permit. Using her moxie, she somehow even convinced a group of Nazi German soldiers to hide her from the train conductor when he was checking all passengers for tickets.
Felicia made it to Vienna, Austria, found a job, and even started dating. Yet it was through her boyfriend that she got arrested. When he was detained, a photograph of her that he had was enough for the local authorities to search for her. When they found her in August 1944, she was sent to Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland, less than 40 miles from her hometown of Krakow.
"The stench alone of the camp was bad enough," Erlich shared.
The Auschwitz gas chamber and the crematoria were always in use. Although estimates vary, it's approximated that 100,000 to 250,000 people were exterminated at the camp.
"There was ash from the crematoria falling all the time," recounted Erlich.
In late 1944, allied bombers from airbases in Italy were hitting targets in Germany, Hungary, and Poland. Felicia wanted a string of the bombs to drop on the camp and end it all.
"But because that did not happen, I am here. My daughter is here. Maybe someday she will do something great," Erlich said.
The air campaign over Germany forced the Nazis to relocate many camps. Felicia was crammed - stuffed really, with thousands of others - into a cattle car and transported to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in northern Germany.
"She thought it was pretty good compared to Auschwitz. At least there was no crematoria," said Erlich.
But it wasn't until mid-April, 1945 that British forces liberated the camp, initially built for 6,000 people, which had swelled to 60,000 prisoners.
"Almost all with lousy teeth, scurvy, and typhus," Erlich said.
There were times when Felicia's resolve weakened. Other times, she reached deep down to defiantly show her will to survive. Commandant Josef Kramer once hit her across the head and made her stand outside in the snow for hours without shoes. Others would come by and drop pieces of cloth to put under her feet. She was so angry that she didn't need them.
That anger fueled her motivational fire to survive.
After being liberated by the British, Felicia assisted them in helping other camp survivors at the displaced persons camp at Lingen, Germany due to her ability to speak Polish, German and French, as well as Yiddish. It was there she met a Polish-British service member, Arthur Erlich, also from Krakow.
She ended up in Paris, France, studying to become a seamstress. Arthur and Felicia married and on July 3, 1948, immigrated to Canada before settling in Minnesota, where Matthew was born.
The marriage didn't last. Arthur's notion of a wife was one focused on cooking and cleaning. Felicia's notion was being part of the world and seeing as much of it as she was able. Although she suffered bouts of post-traumatic stress disorder, her backbone proved to be her strongest attribute.
"Arthur was old-school. Felicia's personality outshined anything. She had the spirit and will to live," Erlich said.
After relocating to the Monterey Peninsula, Calif., Felicia worked in providing banquet support from Camel to Pebble Beach to Pacific Grove.
Interspersed throughout Erlich's historical lecture were short video clips of his mother addressing the camera and sharing her thoughts on her arduous journey.
Erlich noted that his mother often used what he refers to as 'holocaust humor' to make light of the deplorable and appalling conditions she was in.
One such example was the time a gentleman mentioned that he was a train enthusiast and commented to Felicia that he had once been a hobo and 'rode the rails for free.' Without missing a beat, Felicia replied back that she too, had 'rode the rails for free.'
Felicia died in 2009 due to the effects of stage 4 lung cancer. She was almost 86 years young at her passing.
"She was not afraid. She had already seen death," stated Erlich.
Edouard's grandfather also survived the war, yet before he was free to return home, he spent an additional year in a Russian prison camp in the frozen vastness of Siberia.
Fejer, like Felicia and many others, were physically and psychologically hardened to survive.
"My grandfather was like a dad to me. Along with my mother, he helped raise me. We had a close bond. He didn't like to talk a lot about his experiences during that time and although he wasn't that religious, he still paid a terrible price," Edouard said.
Historical accounts estimate that approximately six million European Jews - as well as other 'undesirables' such as Gypsies, Slavs, ideological and political opponents - were killed by the then-German Nazi regime from 1933 until 1945.
'She Prayed in Every Language': Son of Holocaust Survivor Speaks to Centralia Students
The Chronicle | March 8, 2018 | By Katie Hayes
After an auditorium full of sophomores at Centralia High School watched the first half of “Schindler’s List” Wednesday, the son of Holocaust survivor Felicia Lewkowicz took to the stage. He noted that his mother told him “Schindler’s List” wasn’t a realistic enough portrayal of the Nazi death camps.
She would know — she lived through both Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen.
Through little moments and reflections throughout Felicia’s life, her son Matthew Erlich pieced together her story and the presentation he delivered at Centralia High School on Wednesday morning.
“There was no time where Felicia sat us all down as children and said, ‘Now let me tell you about the Holocaust,’” Erlich said. “Instead there would be moments where she would be remembering something or reflecting on something, and it’s in those moments where she would talk about the Holocaust — and we were able to get additional information from other sources that helped corroborate what she was saying, of course — and it allowed us to be able to put together what amounted to the presentation that you saw today.”
The sophomores’ social studies and English teachers worked together to cover World War II from different perspectives. Erlich, who is a volunteer with the Holocaust Center for Humanity Speakers Bureau, spoke to the students about how his mother initially escaped Krakow, then later survived the death camps. Read More
After Lifetime Of Silence, Holocaust Survivor Entrusts His Story To New Generation
KNKX | August 26, 2017 | By Gabriel Spitzer
Hear Legacy Speaker, Michal Lotzkar, in a personal interview about her journey to learn her father’s Holocaust story and then work to present it as a part of the Speakers Bureau of the Holocaust Center for Humanity.
Michal is one of 10-12 children and grandchildren of Holocaust survivors who have courageously stepped forward to bring these stories to classroom and community groups. Their stories were researched and vetted through the Holocaust Center for Humanity. Michal is a member of the Holocaust Center’s Speakers Bureau.
LISTEN NOW (11 min)
Interview by Gabriel Spitzer was aired on KNKX, August 26, 2017.
Cedar Park Christian’s Brown places third in Holocaust Center contest
Bothell Reporter | July 12, 2017
Sixth-grader Anna Brown of the Cedar Park Christian School in Bothell was awarded third place in the middle-school art category of the Holocaust Center for Humanity’s 2017 Writing, Art, & Film Contest.
Anna’s piece is a work examining the role of the bystander in proliferating injustice. She will be honored in a community reception on Sunday, taking place at the Henry and Sandra Friedman Holocaust Center for Humanity in Seattle and will receive a monetary prize. Her work will be displayed at the Holocaust Center, at events and in publications throughout the year.
Vancouver, WA Holocaust Survivor sees familiar 'recipe' in politics today
Oregonian/Oregon Live | June 7, 2017 | by Samantha Swindler
Robert Holczer, 87, is a retired history and U.S. civics teacher who lives with his wife in a Vancouver, Washington, townhouse. It's a quiet life. He works in his garden, saying, "How could anyone live without flowers?" He sells and restores antiques, with a particular fondness for art nouveau pieces.
And occasionally, when someone asks, he'll tell his story as a Holocaust survivor.
Young Artists, Writers and Filmmakers Show Us the Way
Huffington Post | June 7, 2017 | By Amy Pleasant, Contributor, Seattle Visual Artist and Writer
Seattle’s Holocaust Center for Humanity’s Writing/Art/Film Contest
What American would have imagined, just a few years ago, that a sharp rise in hate crimes and racist rhetoric would become so commonplace as the undercurrent of racism in America has risen to the surface in the current political landscape. Targeted groups, including American Jews, have been singled out in a resurgence of an “us vs. them” mentality. According to the Anti-Defamation League antisemitic incidents rose 86% in the past year. ADL CEO Jonathan A. Greenblat released a statement in April 2016, “There’s been a significant, sustained increase in anti-Semitic activity since the start of 2016 and what’s most concerning is the fact that the numbers have accelerated over the past five months.” Anyone familiar with the events leading up to the Holocaust cannot help but pause and reflect. This growing nationalism and intolerance among certain segments of the population in the United States has sharpened the focus of many humanitarian and civil rights based organizations. In this divisive climate the rise of antisemitism has served as a clarion call for the holocaust centers and museums around the country. The echo of history serves as a supplication to the world to enact change so that everyone is respected regardless of color, creed, gender or sexuality.
The intent of Seattle’s Holocaust Center for Humanity is not only to act as a witness to the past, but to provide a means of engagement in a wider cause that promotes humanitarian values. In the words of director, Dee Simon, “Our Center teaches over 40,000 students a year to speak up for those who can not speak for themselves and to defend democracy by honoring all people.“ Like many other Jewish founded institutions, the Holocaust Center’s mission has become particularly relevant at this time in America. From its inception in 1989, it was understood that the key to holding the intent of “Never again” requires engaging the community at large and perhaps more importantly educating young people. The museum not only features historical information and artifacts of the Holocaust from local survivors, but loans “teaching trunks” full of curriculum and class sets of books free of charge to all teachers in the state of Washington. Speakers with first hand experience of the Holocaust are also available to classrooms and the on-site library and website are full of valuable resources. These important tools provide an important historical context in which to encourage tolerance and combat racism in today’s world.
A yearly Art/Film/Writing contest is an important part of this effort to engage young people and help them to make connections between the present and the past. The theme chosen this year was an especially relevant quote by Elie Wiesel, “There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.”
According to Ilana Cone Kennedy, Director of Education, “The topic this year was particularly timely considering our presidential election. (The topic was selected prior to the election.) Students were eager to express themselves and to consider ways in which each individual has opportunities to stand up for what they believe - sometimes in quiet ways and sometimes in loud and bold actions.” Kennedy believes that the relevance of the topic helped propel the participation among students. This year there were a record-breaking 912 entries from students of many backgrounds and nationalities representing 73 schools within Washington State.
This contest not only supports the mission of the Holocaust Center, but has had a significant impact on several of the participants. A former writing winner, Mohammed, was invited to speak and share his family’s own story of fleeing his home country at the Holocaust Center’s annual luncheon. Individuals in attendance offered him mentorships and he was able to secure a scholarship to Seattle University. He is currently continuing his education at Stanford. Aava, one of the first place writing winners donated her prize money to a humanitarian organization which supports the education of girls and recent graduate, Penny Rhines, a two time visual art winner is currently working on a novel about the Holocaust. She also served as one of the judges of this year’s art entries.
The Holocaust Center considers the Writing, Art and Film Contest to be one of the highlights of the year. In Kennedy’s words, “It is incredible to see the work that students are doing and how they are relating the difficult lessons of the Holocaust to their own lives and to the world today.” Perhaps its best said by 8th grader, Sarah Mercedes, in a statement attached to an art piece: “Many people feel silenced by society. It can be because of their race, ethnicity, religion, gender or sexuality. But protest is one of the ways to be heard, to peel away what silences us. When we stand together and speak the truth we will become leaders, shining light in the darkness.” If these students’ strong voices are any indication, it is heartening that the future of our democracy will be in good hands.
Carnation teacher helps students to greater understanding of Holocaust
Snoqualmie Valley Record | May 31, 2017
Sixth grade students at St. Louise School in Bellevue recently completed a six-week immersion study of the Holocaust, taught by Paula Patterson, of Carnation.
Patterson developed the in-depth program drawing from her experience at various conferences and workshops she takes to enhance her knowledge of genocide and the Holocaust. One of the most powerful workshops, she said, was the Eileen Ludwig Greenland Bearing Witness Summer Institute in Washington D.C., which she attended in 2014.
These US soldiers liberated Dachau while their own families were locked up back home
The Times of Israel | May 29, 2017 | By Rich Tenorio
Troops who rescued death march survivors honored on 75th anniversary of WWII order that forced Japanese-Americans into camps.
Events across the United States, including in Seattle, are honoring the the Japanese-Americans of the 522nd who rescued Jewish survivors of a Dachau subcamp and death marches.
[Excerpt Below. Read Full Article]
The soldiers were from a unique American unit — the 522nd Field Artillery Battalion, part of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. It was the only unit in the US armed forces during World War II whose enlisted men were all of Japanese ancestry.
Events across the US are honoring the Japanese-Americans of the 522nd who rescued Jewish survivors of a Dachau subcamp and death marches. The brave soldiers’ recognition is tied to another observance of sorts: This year marks 75 years since Executive Order 9066, under which a suspicious US government at war with Japan relocated Japanese-Americans — citizens and non-citizens alike — to sites now called “internment camps.” In an ironic twist, Japanese-Americans who rescued Jews from Dachau often had family members in US “concentration camps,” as they were called back then.
On April 30 in Seattle, the 522nd was the subject of “Japanese American Soldiers and the Liberation of Dachau,” the culminating event of a three-part series, “The Holocaust and Japanese American Connections,” initiated by 442nd veteran Tosh Okamoto. Partners included Seattle’s Holocaust Center for Humanity, the Nisei Veterans Committee, the University of Washington Department of American Ethnic Studies, and the Consulate-General of Japan in Seattle.
“Being a community activist, many of our fellow Americans know about the Holocaust, but few know about the Japanese and [Japanese Americans’] relatively small part in the Holocaust [narrative],” Okamoto, 90, wrote in an email. “[It] seemed to me that the Holocaust horrible story is not getting the interest it should, therefore adding the Japanese part could add to the Holocaust [narrative], in some shape or form.”
Okamoto, who did not serve with the 522nd, was a late replacement with the 442nd in war-ravaged Italy in 1945, after the conflict had ended.
“I wanted to volunteer, but [my] mother [told] not me to do so,” he wrote. “[My] father had a severe heart attack while we were in what our [government] called ‘relocation centers’ but really were concentration camps. So after Dad recovered [somewhat], I was drafted. Dad was disabled for [the] rest of his life.”
The first two events in the Seattle program addressed concentration camps in Europe and the US, as well as Japanese Consul Chiune Sugihara, who saved thousands of Lithuanian Jews from the Holocaust.
The concluding event coincided with Holocaust Remembrance Day. The master of ceremonies was Ken Mochizuki, author of the children’s book “Passage to Freedom: the Sugihara Story.” He was a featured speaker at the Sugihara event.
“Amazingly, the [522nd] event became like a confluence of history, with those in the audience including a survivor of the Auschwitz concentration camp, a woman raised in Amsterdam who knew Anne Frank’s family, and a veteran of the US 42nd Rainbow Division which liberated Dachau’s main camp,” Mochizuki wrote in an email.
Holocaust History: Lost or Never Learned? Spicer comments raise concerns
King5 News | April 16, 2017 | By Lili Tan
"Never forget” is a phrase often uttered after horrific tragedies, but at the Holocaust Center for Humanity in Seattle, there’s a fear the world is forgetting after recent comments from a prominent White House staffer.
“You had someone as despicable as Hitler who didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons,” the White House press secretary said on Tuesday when he compared Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to Adolf Hitler, and apologized later: “I got into a topic I shouldn’t have, and I screwed up. I hope people understand we all make mistakes.”
Though Sean Spicer apologized soon after his eyebrow-raising remarks, some are wondering if the mistake is a sign of a larger societal symptom: Ignorance about the Holocaust.
“Best case scenario: Spicer has a tenuous grasp of history. And worst case: he’s sort of feeding into denial, which I think is a rising issue now. As time moves on and the survivors pass, we're getting further and further from the history,” Holocaust Center for Humanity executive director Dee Simon said.
The Center has a canister of Zyklon B from Auschwitz. Nazis used the cyanide-based pesticide to kill about one million people in extermination camp gas chambers, according to Simon.
Since the comments on Tuesday, museum goers are giving the canister some added attention.
“It was a highly poisonous insecticide used to kill over a million Jews and other victims,” Judyth Weaver, of Seattle, said, reading the exhibition card.
She brought her three grandchildren to see the Curious George exhibit at the museum.
“I think the younger generation is losing touch with a lot of things, the Holocaust being one of them,” Weaver said.
Her grandchild Celia, 10, says many of her friends do not know about the Holocaust: “but since I am half Jewish, then they learned about some of it. But some people just don't really care about it or don't want to learn more about it.”
More than 40 states, including Washington, do not legally require school districts teach students about the Holocaust, though some may recommend it.
“They get Hitler confused with Stalin -- it’s shocking,” Simon said of some high school and college students’ knowledge of the Holocaust.
Holocaust Remembrance Day is Monday, April 24. On Sunday, April 23, the Holocaust Center for Humanity is having two survivors talk about their experiences in an effort to keep their stories alive.
© 2017 KING-TV
The Journey that Saved Curious George - King 5 New Day Northwest
New Day Northwest | January 30, 2017
Director of Education Ilana Cone Kennedy talks about the Holocaust Center for Humanity 's upcoming exhibit, Holocaust Remembrance Day, and more... On KING 5 New Day Northwest with Margaret Larsen.
A Message from Rep Adam Smith
"The impact of [Elie Wiesel's] legacy continues in our Seattle community at the Holocaust Center for Humanity which upholds his dedication to promote and teach citizenship and tolerance through the lessons of the Holocaust."
Representative Adam Smith, Washington's Ninth District
After Holocaust Remembrance Day, I spent time reflecting on the invaluable role Jewish-Americans play in the 9th Congressional District and our society as a whole. Their unique experiences, including their persecution during the Holocaust, continue to teach us how important it is to remember history’s lessons so that we do not repeat our most egregious mistakes.
On January 27, 2017 we commemorated the 72nd anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. This commemoration was a time for us to all to reflect on the dangers of hate and to reaffirm our commitment to fight for an inclusive and tolerant world.
On February 1, 2017, I ensured that my words also created concrete actions. I cosponsored H.Res. 78 which reiterated the indisputable fact that the Nazi regime targeted the Jewish people in its perpetration of the Holocaust. This piece of legislation calls on every entity of the executive branch to affirm this fact.
While the Holocaust destroyed millions of lives, it also created heroes that we should all look to for guidance. One such hero was Elie Wiesel. Recently, I had the privilege to honor Elie’s contributions to the Jewish-American community by submitting a letter of remembrance to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s tribute to Elie. His memory lives on through his countless books that depict his childhood experiences with the Holocaust. When he was just 15, his entire family was abducted and taken to the Auschwitz concentration camp; Elie was the only member of his family to survive. After liberation, Elie became an advocate for human and civil rights, from his support for Nicaragua’s Miskito Indians to his founding role of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 1993. The impact of his legacy continues in our Seattle community at the Holocaust Center for Humanity which upholds his dedication to promote and teach citizenship and tolerance through the lessons of the Holocaust.
I look forward to continuing my support of our Jewish-American community in every way that I can, from further legislation to increased outreach and awareness.
Survivor teaches Juanita High School students about Nazi Germany
Lake Washington School District | January 5, 2017
Holocaust survivor and actress Eva Tannenbaum-Cummins performed her one-person play, “A Page from the Past… Or is it?” in December for students in Peter Suruda’s English classes at Juanita High School. During the annual visit, organized through a partnership with the Holocaust Center for Humanity in Seattle, Tannenbaum-Cummins recollects her childhood growing up in Hitler’s Berlin:
"All of a sudden we hear ‘Hitler's coming! Hitler's coming!’ And of course everybody had to give the Hitler salute, except Jews for whom it was forbidden. And so my mother said, ‘turn around.’ And we quickly turned around toward a jewelry shop and watched the reflection of Hitler passing by. A very scary moment.”
When she was in fifth grade, Tannenbaum-Cummins and other Jewish students were expelled from school. After witnessing Kristallnacht (Night of Broken Glass), she and her mother spent nearly a year trying to leave Germany for Seattle where a cousin lived. They arrived in 1939 when she was a teenager. Two weeks later, Germany invaded Poland and ignited World War II.
Students sat in silence during the performance, but were eager to ask questions afterward. Several students were interested in whether Tannenbaum-Cummins had been back to Berlin. She said she’s been back twice, but emphasized Seattle is her home. “Berlin is just a place I used to live.”
Blaine middle school student wins second place in art competition
The Northern Light | August 17, 2016 | By Stefanie Donahue
Seattle-based Holocaust Center for Humanity has awarded Blaine Middle School student Diana Kovtun second place for an art piece she submitted for the organization’s annual Writing, Art and Film Contest.
The nonprofit celebrated its 25th year hosting the contest, which is open to students in grades 5 — 12. This year’s prompt related to a recent honor awarded to Seattle, after it was chosen as one of the 11 places in the United States to care for a sapling from a chestnut tree cherished by Anne Frank.
The prompt, “How does this tree, and what you have learned about the Holocaust, inspire you and others?” garnered a response from about 900 students from 60 schools in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Alaska.
“The contest is important because it gives students a creative outlet to express some, at times, heavy and difficult concepts,” said Holocaust Center education associate Julia Thompson.
Most often, the prompts encourage kids to consider the experience of a local holocaust survivor, she said. Ultimately, the mission is to encourage kids to not only be open to learning, but also to take action in their own communities.
The contest is only one component of the Holocaust Center for Humanity’s education. The organization also offers several exhibitions and resources for teachers, including trainings, speaker opportunities and more.
Sixth grade student Kovtun attended the award ceremony in July with support from her teacher Paul Minckler. “The small sapling also illustrates that there is still hope for the survivors and their families and the hope has come,” Kovtun said in a statement.
Eastside Catholic students win in Holocaust Center contest
Sammamish Review | August 3, 2016 | By Sarah Troy
Several Eastside Catholic School students received awards for their submissions in the Holocaust Center for Humanity’s 2016 Writing, Art and Film Contest.
More than 900 students from 70 schools participated in this year's contest. Students were asked to respond to the question “How does the Anne Frank Tree sapling (recently planted in Seattle) and what you have learned about the Holocaust, inspire you?”
Aava Sikchi, a middle schooler from Issaquah, and Sammamish 10th-grader Kyle Jenkins each earned first place honors for their written essays. Sophomore Emmie Head’s written submission earned an honorable mention.
Several Eastside Catholic sophomores were also recognized for their film entries in the contest. Mitch Flippo (Bellevue) and Sarah Troy (Sammamish) tied for second, and Sacha Mallalieu (Sammamish) and Mina Head (Sammamish) placed third.
Established in 1989, the Holocaust Center for Humanity is a nonprofit organization that strives to teach tolerance to schools and communities in the Pacific Northwest through lessons of the Holocaust.
Chimacum student places 1st in Holocaust art contest
Eva Casey, an eighth-grader at Chimacum Middle School, recently won first place in her age group in the Holocaust Center for Humanity’s annual Writing, Art & Film Contest.
For the past several years, all Chimacum seventh-graders have been given the opportunity to write an entry for this contest as a culminating activity at the end of the unit of study about the Holocaust and Nazi persecution. This year, almost 900 students from 70 schools participated in the contest.
Casey is the second winner from Chimacum. In 2014, Journey Orchanian won second place in the writing portion of the contest.
“The art part of the contest wasn’t easy, but I knew I had an OK idea about what I was going to do,” wrote Casey in an artist’s statement posted on the Holocaust Center's Facebook page. “I wanted to only put the names of victims on the picture at first, but later ,I added survivors to give a sense of hope. It was overwhelming how many names I read; I don’t think I could ever write all of them down. All in all, the tree was hard to work with for me, but the message was great, and I enjoyed drawing it.”
An awards ceremony took place July 24 at the Holocaust Center for Humanity in Seattle; Casey's art was used on the front of the ceremony invitations.
George Elbaum, survivor and member of the HCH Speakers Bureau, honored in Israel at Technion
SAN FRANCISCO and NEW YORK (June 15, 2016) — Dr. George Elbaum of San Francisco, a businessman and aerospace engineer, who writes and speaks about his experience as a child survivor of the Holocaust, was awarded an Honorary Fellowship on June 5 from the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology. The ceremony took place during the Technion Board of Governors (BOG) meeting (June 4-8, 2016) on the university campus in Haifa.
Accompanied by his wife, Mimi Jensen, Dr. Elbaum was recognized for “devotion to the Technion and Israel . . . business accomplishments that have spanned the globe and bridged countries . . . and for sharing (your) story, in order to impart the message of tolerance to present and future generations.”
A steadfast supporter of the Technion and Israel, Dr. Elbaum is an active member of the American Technion Society (ATS) National Board of Directors, the ATS North Pacific Region Board and the Technion Board of Governors.
Together with his wife, he is a Technion Guardian — an honor reserved for those who support the Technion at the highest level. The couple has supported the Technion with gifts that include the George J. Elbaum Fund for the Satell Technion-MIT Leadership Program, the Whiteman International Foundation Fellowships (named after Dr. Elbaum's mother) in the Grand Technion Energy Program, and the Formula Student Race Car project.
Dr. Elbaum was born in Warsaw, Poland in 1938. As a child, he was smuggled out of the Warsaw ghetto and lived with a series of Polish families who hid him and his Jewish identity from the Nazis. Only he and his mother survived, as they lost 10 family members to the Holocaust. In 1949, Dr. Elbaum immigrated to the U.S., and in 1955 he enrolled at MIT, where he earned four degrees — a bachelor’s and a master’s in aeronautics and astronautics, along with a second master’s and a Ph.D. in nuclear engineering.
He began his career in Los Angeles in the aerospace industry, and then moved into the international business arena. In 1972, he co-founded Intertorg, a consulting firm representing American and European corporations in the Soviet Union (including General Motors, U.S. Steel, Reebok, etc.), where he marketed their products and services. After 25 years, he switched gears again, turning to commercial real estate investment and development.
In 2010, he wrote and published Neither Yesterdays Nor Tomorrows, a book of vignettes from his childhood during the Holocaust, and started speaking to student groups across the U.S. and in Poland about survival and tolerance. In 2014, he followed his first book with a second volume, Yesterdays Revisited, about the feedback/letters he’s received from students at the 100-plus venues where he’s spoken.
The five-day BOG meeting was comprised of award ceremonies and dedications, presentations by speakers that included Middle East expert Ambassador Dennis B. Ross, and other events such as an Innovation Panel Discussion, featuring Technion graduates such as Dov Moran, inventor of the DiskOnKey (USB flash drive). Other San Francisco-area participants included Ruth Owades and Lou Lenzen.
Photo: George Elbaum (right) receiving an Honorary Fellowship from Technion President Professor Peretz Lavie at an awards ceremony on the Haifa campus on June 5, 2016.
Sapling of chestnut tree Anne Frank gazed at from window planted in Seattle - Kiro7
Kiro7 | May 11, 2016 | By Maggie Wilson
SEATTLE —Anne Frank lived in hiding, in the annex of an Amsterdam apartment, during Nazi occupation when she was a child.
“As long as this exists,” she wrote of the sun, blue sky and chestnut tree she would gaze at from the window, “how can I be sad?”
The white horse chestnut tree, weakened by disease, succumbed to a 2010 windstorm in the Netherlands. It was over 170 years old, according to The Sapling Project.
The Anne Frank House, with permission from the tree's owner, gathered chestnuts from the dying tree and germinated them, intending to donate resultant saplings.
An excerpt of a 1968 speech by Anne’s father, Otto Frank, is hosted on the Sapling Project’s site.
“How could I have known,” he asks, “how much it meant to Anne to see a patch of blue sky, to observe the seagulls as they flew, and how important the chestnut tree was for her, when I think that she never showed any interest in nature.”
A video uploaded by the Anne Frank House in 2009 shows views of the chestnut tree. Watch it here.
One of its saplings was planted in January in Seattle in Frank’s honor.
The Holocaust Center for Humanity in Belltown was one of 11 sites in the country selected to receive a sapling from the historic tree.
Ilana Cone Kennedy with the center said they were granted the chestnut sapling in 2009. The trees came from Amsterdam and required three years in quarantine in a special nursery.
“The little tree that came to Seattle was too small to plant in a public park,” Kennedy said. “Seattle Parks and Recreation has been nursing the tree in a greenhouse since 2013.”
The sapling was dedicated at Seattle Center’s Peace Garden. The Peace Garden is near the base of the Space Needle. The garden was planted in 1996.
A beloved feature of the garden is a Ceanothus impressus “Puget Blue,” which is covered with tiny blue flowers in early summer.
Recently, Seattle’s new Holocaust Center for Humanity welcomed a traveling exhibit honoring the memory of Anne Frank. One woman, Agi Day, reflected in Seattle this spring to KIRO 7 on the personal importance the Anne Frank display held for her.
“Just being in the Holocaust Center is reminiscent of many things for me,” said Day. “And Anne Frank, specifically, because I’ve been there in Amsterdam. And I, too, was a hidden child. Different story. But, again, a hidden child. … My mother, my sister, my grandmother were hidden in a convent, dressed as nuns. ... I was too young to be in the convent. So I was hidden with a Catholic family, a couple [with] no children. And they pretended I was a cousin from the countryside."
Kennedy, with the Holocaust Center for Humanity, said in the wake of a Seattle shooting at the Jewish Federation in 2006, people “from all walks of life” came together to show their support for the Jewish community and those impacted by the shooting.
In the shooting at Seattle's Jewish Federation building, six women were shot. One of them was killed.
Kennedy was working in the building that day -- and recalls being “incredibly moved by the outpouring of support.”
“In our application for the sapling,” Kennedy said, “we mentioned that this tree was not only one of hope and remembrance, but, in the spirit of Anne Frank, should serve as a reminder of what we can do when we put our differences aside and stand together.”
Of the Anne Frank exhibit in Seattle, Kennedy says every day people come to visit the display and are filled with their own questions and stories. The center has hosted thousands of students.
At the end of their tour, visitors are invited to leave comments on paper leaves and place them on a tree painted on the wall.
“The comments are moving and now cover the whole wall," Kennedy said. "One of them reads simply, 'We are all Anne Frank.' And another, 'I could invite the lonely kid that sits near us at lunch to come hang out with me and my friends.'"
Photographer Meryl Alcabes captured beautiful images from the sapling dedication ceremony. Click here to see them.
More than a statistic: My connection to Anne Frank - Seattle Times
“Anne Frank, A History for Today,” about the Dutch teenager whose diary has become a symbol of Holocaust tragedy and of hope, has special meaning for writer and college student Nicole Einbinder.
I will never forget listening to Anne Frank’s childhood friend describe the moment she threw food over the fence at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Nazi Germany.
And Anne told her friend that she was hungry.
As my group — UW students participating in a 10-day trip to Israel through Birthright Israel in the summer of 2014 — listened attentively in one of the auditoriums at Yad Vashem, the official memorial to the Holocaust in Jerusalem, the room was silent.
Goslar secretly collected food and clothes to throw to her friend in the dead of night. They met at the fence and Goslar threw the package into the air, into the unknown. On the other side, another prisoner, also desperate for food, grabbed it from the girl too weak to put up a fight.
At the age of 15, Anne Frank died of typhus in the camp, weeks before its liberation in 1945.
The pain in Goslar’s voice, decades after the Holocaust, will never leave me. The devastation, the looming question: “What if Anne had got the package?”
Posted on a wall of the “Anne Frank: A History for Today” exhibit in Seattle’s Holocaust Center for Humanity is a quote from Goslar: “It wasn’t the same Anne. She was a broken girl. It was terrible. She immediately began to cry, and she told me: ‘I don’t have any parents anymore.’ I always think, if Anne had known that her father was still alive, she might have had more strength to survive.”
On display until May 25, the traveling exhibit, developed by the Anne Frank House and sponsored by the Anne Frank Center USA, is a glimpse into the life of a girl considered to be a universal figure of the Holocaust, according to Ilana Cone Kennedy, education director at Seattle’s Holocaust Center.
“People are so connected to her because we can all relate to her in a way,” Kennedy explained. “She’s a very average teenager that we all get, and she’s totally innocent. She’s done nothing to deserve where she is, and she doesn’t survive.
“That’s the really horrible tragedy of it all,” she said.
The exhibit includes a timeline of Anne’s personal story juxtaposed with general Holocaust history, personal photographs of the family, a replica of her acclaimed diary, and a model of the attic and house where she hid for two years from the Nazis.
As I toured the exhibit on a rainy Seattle afternoon, it was difficult not to feel connected. I am Jewish; my grandfather’s cousin Mordecai Anielewicz was the leader of the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, an act of Jewish resistance against Nazi efforts to transport the residents of the ghetto to the Treblinka extermination camp in occupied Poland.
But, I am also lucky. I was born in a time and place where I can express my faith freely and proudly. Anne, a normal girl who grew up in Amsterdam, who took photos with her family and loved to ice-skate and laugh and write, was not as fortunate.
“How resilient this young girl was and how she was able to create joy in her daily life and imagine a future,” said Karen Chachkes, the center’s strategic director, as we toured the exhibition. “She believed in life.”
Chachkes said that of the more than 100,000 Jews living in Holland during the Nazi regime, only about 5,000 survived.
The exhibit’s primary purpose is to educate the community, while reminding people that we all can make a difference in the world, Kennedy said. Around 60 school groups from across the state will be touring the center over the next couple of months.
“I think there is still so much hate in the world, I think there is still so much to learn, and I think so much has happened since the Holocaust in order to try to make these things not happen again,” Kennedy said. “And yet, when I see what’s going on in the world and people murdering each other for racist, extremist ideals so senselessly, you have to wonder: How can we stop this? What can we do so that people see each other as human beings?”
The Holocaust has so many names. There is Anne and her sister Margot and Mordecai and an infinite number of people who all had stories, who all had ears and eyes and hopes and dreams. In one quote on the timeline, Anne said that her dream was to be a journalist, and later a famous writer.
As an intern at The Seattle Times, I can definitely relate.
While the exhibit embodies humanity’s worst, it also exposes another truth: Margot laughing with a group of friends, Anne staring into the camera at school, a portrait of the family in their best attire.
They were more than a statistic, more than victims of the Holocaust.
“I was really surprised at how much I didn’t know and how moved I was by the way the exhibit is presented,” Kennedy said, pausing to add, “how humanizing it is.”
Bridging the Particular and the Universal - Without Erasing Either
Stroum Center for Jewish Studies, University of Washington | March 28, 2016 | By Katja Schatte
Seattle’s recently inaugurated Holocaust Center for Humanity (HCH) demonstrates that teaching a bigger lesson does not have to come at the expense of representing a particular history. With its focus on the stories of local survivors, the center not only bridges the gap between the particular and the universal, it also demonstrates that the respect for, not the erasure of, particularity lies at the root of solidarity.
The Holocaust Center for Humanity’s own history is just as important as the history it represents. It leaves no doubt about how central the role of Holocaust memory and the fight against antisemitism are to its mission. Twenty-six years ago, a group of local survivors founded the center’s precursor, the Speakers’ Bureau, to tell their stories at local schools and universities in response to spreading Holocaust denial. Until this day, the Speakers’ Bureau and the recording of oral histories are vital parts of the Holocaust Center’s work.
However, in the face of diminishing numbers of survivors, the Center has come up with new ways to keep the memory of the Holocaust alive. But instead of giving in to what Professor Walter Reich calls “the itch to universalize,” the HCH continues to focus on the stories of Jewish survivors throughout its recently inaugurated exhibit. And instead of forcing the exhibit to choose between teaching about Jewish suffering during the Holocaust and teaching bigger lessons, the survivors’ stories accomplish both at the same time.
As Dee Simon, the Center’s Executive Director, summarizes it: “We learned that students learn best from stories. People learn best from stories. And the richest thing we have is the stories of survivors. That is what makes our museum unique: Holocaust stories from people who survived and came to live here.” As a result, the artifacts on display in the museum are also always “a symbol of someone’s story.”
The Center’s commitment to both preserving these artifacts and making them accessible becomes apparent in its cutting-edge archival infrastructure. After two major institutions, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) in Washington D.C. and the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust, Seattle’s HCH is only the third institution in the United States to meet the strict preservation standards of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Collection in Oświęcim, Poland and thus has obtained artifacts from that collection.
Just as important as the preservation and display of the artifacts is the content of the stories the museum tells with them. As Dee Simon explains, specific curatorial decisions ensure that human experiences of the Holocaust, rather than sanitized historical timelines, structure visitors’ experiences of the exhibit. With the exception of a few images from the USHMM, all objects in the HCH exhibit tell the stories of local survivors. Rather than presenting history from the perspective of informed hindsight, the exhibit guides visitors through the lived experiences of identification, exclusion, the turning point of Kristallnacht, flight and rescue, and the mass murder of European Jews in the ghettos and concentration and extermination camps across Europe. Survival, too, is presented as part of the narrative. Ultimately, the exhibit succeeds in answering the oft-asked question “But why did no one see it coming?” by helping visitors understand how members of the European Jewish community experienced history as it was happening. READ MORE
King 5 - New Day Northwest: Seattle's Unique Link to Anne Frank
The Holocaust Center's Director of Education, Ilana Cone Kennedy, speaks with Margaret Larsen from King 5 New Day Northwest about the Holocaust Center's exhibit on Anne Frank and the planting of the Anne Frank tree sapling in Seattle.
Click here to see the article and video on the New Day Northwest website.
Seattle's Holocaust Center for Humanity Hosts Anne Frank Exhibit - KPLU
KPLU | By Jennifer Wing
An exhibit about the life of Anne Frank is currently on view at the Holocaust Center for Humanity in Seattle. It’s called, "Anne Frank: A History For Today." When it closes at the end of May, two strong connections to Anne Frank will remain in Seattle.
If you go to the exhibit, you will see large panels, about seven feet tall, lining the walls.They are split in half. The top has photos and text that chronicle the rise of Adolf Hitler, the Nazi Party and the horrors of the Holocaust. The lower half of the panels is all about Anne Frank and her family.
The Frank timeline begins with joyful pictures of weddings, the smiling faces of a young Anne and her sister Margot — happy times. Ilana Cone Kennedy is the center’s education director.
“I like that, because I feel like you kind of need to see where people are before the Holocaust starts in order to understand how their lives change once the world started changing,” said Cone Kennedy.
The exhibit shows how Otto Frank, Anne’s father, made the shrewd decision to leave Germany right away and move to the Netherlands.
“And so the Netherlands didn't come into the war until many years later and so the juxtaposition of the Holocaust history and what’s going on in the Netherlands is really interesting because you see pictures of Anne and Margot on the beach while other people are being deported in other countries.” READ MORE | LISTEN
Remembering the Holocaust with 'Anne Frank: A History for Today' exhibit - ParentMap
ParentMap | March 8, 2016 | By Nancy Schatz Alton
When my older daughter finished reading chapter 1 of Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl, she looked up at me and said, “I’m so depressed.”
“I know!” I said. “To think such a good writer only had the chance to write this book, and to die like that.”
“Exactly,” she replied.
This weekend I plan on taking both of my daughters to see the traveling exhibit Anne Frank: A History for Today at the Henry and Sandra Friedman Holocaust Center for Humanity in downtown Seattle. On display through May 18, 2016, this exhibit presents a history of the Holocaust through Anne’s life story. (It was developed by the Anne Frank House and is sponsored in North America by The Anne Frank Center USA.
“Even if you know her story, it personalizes her and gives the situational context as she was writing her diary,” says Ilana Cone Kennedy, the center’s director of education.
Frank's story is told timeline style. Each panel is split in half: the top tells Holocaust history while the bottom shows what was happening with the Frank family at that same time.
This is just a fabulous exhibit. I have to tell you, we had so many people come through on our first day,” says Kennedy. “Anne Frank is a universal human figure of this very terrible time period who suffered for no good reason. We’ve made her larger than life, but really she’s just a regular kid, a 13-year-old girl who’s thoughtful and a little annoying and she doesn’t like her mom.”
Although the museum's core exhibit is not displayed while the Anne Frank exhibit is up (read a review here), some artifacts from local survivors are still on display. While the center officially recommends the Anne Frank exhibit for fifth graders and up, Kennedy has seen parents show certain pieces of the exhibit to second and third graders and believes parents can judge if their children are ready to learn some of this story.
“Ultimately, we are learning to respect our differences, how we need to help each other and that our own individual choices matter. We don’t live in our own bubble. We have to extend a hand to each other and speak out when we see intolerance,” says Kennedy.
When you visit, the center’s staff are on hand to give parents and children the contextual context needed to understand Holocaust history. Kennedy encourages parents to ask for resources. GO TO ARTICLE
Anne Frank exhibit on display in Seattle - Kiro 7 TV (Video)
Anne Frank Exhibit Arrives in Seattle - King 5 News (Video)
The Holocaust Center for Humanity is hosting Anne Frank: A History for Today through May 18.
The exhibit, created by The Anne Frank Center USA, delves into scenes of the Holocaust through Frank’s observations which she recorded as a teenager while she was in hiding in Amsterdam in the early 1940s.
“There’s something so human about this story,” said Karen Chachkes, strategic director for the Holocaust Center for Humanity. “She was just a child and her revelations are at once childlike and very, very prescient.” ...READ MORE & WATCH VIDEO
Survivor Visits Grandview and Prosser
Holocaust survivor: Childhood on the run
By Jennie McGhan
Student Article about Local Survivor Tom Lenda
Allison Hoff is an 8th grader at Forest Ridge School and already a published journalist in the Kirkland Reporter. After a trip to Poland that included a tour of Auschwitz, Allison was inspired to learn more and interviewed local survivor, and member of the Holocaust Center Speakers Bureau, Tom Lenda, about his experiences. (Photo: Allison Hoff with Tom and Rose Lenda)
The Times Change and We Change With Them:
The inspiring story of a local Holocaust survivor
By: Allison Hoff
As we pulled up in the van I felt my heart beating. I was nervous—how could I begin to express my sorrow and pay my respects to the many souls that died in the Holocaust? As I climbed out of the car, I caught my first glance of Auschwitz-Birkenau and the famous sign, "Arbeit Macht Frei," or, "Work Makes You Free."
I was overwhelmed seeing the vast place for the first time. As I took my first steps on the grounds of the concentration camp, I thought about the many people who had stood there and never got to live their dreams and share their stories. I attempted to comprehend all the pain and suffering that was experienced not long ago, but I had a hard time wrapping my head around everything. I was flooded with inquiries as I walked through Auschwitz that rainy day in August.
Having been to Auschwitz, my perspective regarding not only past genocides around the world, but also current situations our world faces, such as the Syrian refugee crisis, has changed. After learning about how Jews were persecuted during the Holocaust, I can't help but make a connection to the way the Syrians are being treated now, particularly after the recent terrorist attacks in Paris. Seeing Auschwitz was a very meaningful experience for me, and it raised many questions. I wanted to learn more about the Holocaust from someone who had witnessed the concentration camps first hand to educate myself about how the lessons we have learned can be applied today.
I felt exceptionally privileged to have the opportunity to meet a Holocaust survivor with the help of his daughter, Hana Kern. Tommy Lenda lives with his wife Rose in the Seattle area and has written and published a book, Children on the Death Row, the Hate and the War. Mr. Lenda wrote his book under his given surname, Lustig, however his last name was changed after the war and the family has used the name Lenda since 1945. Mr. Lenda speaks frequently in schools to sixth graders, and although it can be emotional, he enjoys sharing his stories with the new generation. I was honored to be invited to his home to talk with him in person and hear his inspiring and motivational story. I knocked on his door one evening with my notebook in hand, nervous and eagerly awaiting our conversation.
Mr. Lenda began by describing to me how as a young boy, he entered Terezín, a concentration camp in the Czech Republic, in 1942 at the age of six. Young Tommy survived Terezín, and left when it was liberated in 1945 at age nine. From the ghettos, Jews were often taken to camps like Terezín before being sent to death camps like Auschwitz. Over 15,000 children inhabited Terezín at some point, but in Tommy's age group of children under nine years old, only 48 survived the Holocaust.
Little Tommy faced many frightening experiences at Terezín, but from our conversation I gathered that he doesn't just want people to pity him. He wants people to learn from what happened in the Holocaust and use that knowledge to make our world a better place. By sharing his story with students, Mr. Lenda has healed himself and found lessons in the Holocaust. "We must eliminate hate because it's usually the source of bad happenings," added Rose, Mr. Lenda's wife. Mr. Lenda explained to me that eliminating hate is something we can all do to make our world a better place, and it could be as simple as standing up to a bully or advocating for what you believe in.
As I left the Lenda's home, I thought about how we strive to learn from the painful events of WWII. It occurred to me that history doesn't always repeat itself in the same way. Certain aspects of a situation are often similar to something that has happened before, but we don't always make the connection.
Europe is currently being flooded with Syrian refugees seeking a new home, similar to how the Jews were seeking safety from anti-Semitism in the 1930s and 1940s. Today, many see the Syrian migrants as potential terrorists. A brief article in the September 25th issue of The Week described how some people in Hungary, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic are holding signs that read, "Today's refugees, tomorrow's terrorists." Just like the Jews faced hate and anti-Semitism during the war, Syrians today are facing stereotypes and rejection.
As Pope Francis encouraged during his recent visit to the United States regarding the Syrian refugees, "We must not be taken aback by their numbers, but rather view them as persons, seeing their faces and listening to their stories." This reminded me of Mr. Lenda's message to eliminate hate and inspire love and acceptance.
Mr. Lenda's evolving understanding of the Holocaust relates perfectly to one of his favorite Latin proverbs, "The times change and we change with them." Mr. Lenda hopes that his stories will affect the way we change and inspire us to eliminate hate. As Tommy emphasized to me on the day of our interview, not hate but "the good feeling" helped people survive the worst genocide in history.
The Holocaust Center Says Goodbye to Thomas Blatt 1927-2015
It is with heavy hearts that we say goodbye to Thomas "Toivi" Blatt. He died October 31 at his daughter's home in Santa Barbara, CA.
Thomas was a true inspiration -- a survivor of Sobibor death camp who dedicated his life to Holocaust education. Having lived for many years in the Seattle/Bellevue area, Thomas shared his incredible story with countless schools and community groups in the region.
His funeral will be held on Wednesday, November 4 at 12:30pm in Santa Barbara, CA. His family has made it possible to access a live video feed of the service at Congregation B'nai B'rith here: http://cbbsb.org/our-community-2/media/live-video-stream/
Thomas "Toivi" Blatt was born in Izbica, a small town near Lublin, Poland. After the Nazi occupation of his town in 1939, Blatt escaped from the ghetto in Izbica, but was caught and imprisoned at the age of 15. He managed to escape from the prison and return to Izbica.
On April 28, 1943, Blatt and his family were deported to the Sobibor extermination camp, one of the "Operation Reinhard" camps in Poland. There, his father, mother, and little brother were separated from him and gassed. One of the SS officers picked Blatt out and said, "You will be my shoeshine boy." This meant that Blatt joined the group of slave laborers who ran the camp.
In Sobibor, Blatt became a member of the camp's Jewish resistance group. He was designated to run messages to different members of the revolt. On October 14, 1943, he participated in the revolt that resulted in the killing of nearly all the Nazi staff and allowing over 300 (out of the 600 who attempted escape) fellow slave laborers to break free. Unfortunately, many of these escapees lost their lives on the minefields surrounding the camp. Of the 300 who escaped, only 54 survived to the end of the war.
Blatt and two young fellow prisoners were among those who successfully escaped. They found refuge with a farmer who agreed to hide them for the money they had. However, the three boys were eventually betrayed and mercilessly shot. Blatt, left for dead with a bullet in his chin, managed to escape.
Blatt's story is told in his two books: Sobibor: The Forgotten Revolt and From the Ashes of Sobibor.
Blatt dedicated his life to accurately preserving the memory of the more than 250,000 Jews whom the Nazis murdered at the Sobibor death camp. He regularly returned to Europe to appear on talk shows, give lectures, and continue his research. He was depicted by an actor in the award-winning made-for-television movie called "Escape from Sobibor," and acted as chief adviser for the film.
Blatt traveled to Munich in 2011, in spite of his failing heath, to testify in the trial of former Sobibor SS guard Ivan (John) Demjanjuk. His compelling courtroom testimony helped prosecutors in Munich win Demjanjuk's conviction on more than 28,000 counts of serving as an accessory to murder.
When the revolt took place in Sobibor, the leader had said: "Those of you who may survive, bear witness. Let the world know what has happened here." Blatt spent his life fulfilling that mission.
Blatt was proud to be a member of the Holocaust Center's Speakers Bureau when he lived in Seattle. He returned to Seattle often after he moved in Santa Barbara to live with his daughter.
The Holocaust Center, students, teachers, and all who heard him will remember his courage and perseverance.
Tributes in memory of Thomas Blatt can be made to the
Holocaust Center for Humanity (2045 Second Ave, Seattle, WA 98121)
ParentMap - "A Parent's Review: Seattle's New Holocaust Center for Humanity"
By Natalie Singer-Velush | ParentMap Managing Editor | Oct. 21, 2015
This new museum, the first of its kind in the Pacific Northwest, is a story-driven outing honoring human rights and local survivors.
At first I was a little unsure about the decision to take my daughters, 8 and 10, to a Holocaust museum on a Sunday morning. To begin with — the difficult subject. Add in their relatively young ages and the fact that they had just come off another busy week and a Saturday chock-full with soccer, ballet and more soccer, and well … let’s just say it could have gone in any direction.
I’m so glad we went.
Mine were the first children to visit on the opening weekend of the Henry and Sandra Friedman Holocaust Center for Humanity, but the center — the Northwest’s first Holocaust museum — was ready for them. Read More
Q13 Fox - "Seattle's first Holocaust museum opens its door, honoring stories of local survivors"
SEATTLE -- The first museum in Seattle to honor the Holocaust opened its doors on Sunday, highlighting the stories of local victims and survivors.
Kiro Radio - Seattle's first Holocaust museum opens in Belltown
Listen to the Kiro Radio segment by clicking here.
In the museum, a large, black and white picture displays elementary-age students, all with Jewish star patches sewn into their sweaters and coats.Up front sits Pete Metzelaar, about 6 years old at the time. Now 80, he's a Seattleite and Holocaust survivor who travels around the country telling his story.
"That regime, state-sponsored, wanted to eradicate every person of the Jewish faith on Earth," Metzelaar said.
"Everybody is different," he said, about how people will react to the new museum in Seattle.
Maybe they'll see the child's leather shoe, on loan from the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum in Poland, and really understand what happened. That "they were gassed. They were … burned in the crematorium," Metzelaar said.
Metzelaar believes teaching it both in the museum and in schools can help people understand tolerance "to make kids aware what bullying will do to the worst extent," he said.
"Six million people got annihilated, among which were 1.5 million kids 10 years and younger. I mean it could have been … me." Those are the numbers of Jewish victims but the Nazis targeted more, including people who were mentally ill, gay or lesbian, and any minority who didn't fit into the Aryan race.
Metzelaar survived because a Dutch couple risked their lives to house him and his mother. "We just lived in the farmhouse, but when the Germans came to raid the farm we crawled underneath some floor boards," he said."They were walking a foot and a half over my head. It would have taken one sneeze, one cough, one hiccup, and it would have been all over.
And even that got to be too dangerous."The farmer built them a cave in a small forest next to the farm "… and my mom and I hid in that like a couple of sardines," Metzelaar said.
And this was after he and his mother had already been separated from their entire family, who all died at Auschwitz.Those raids happened once or twice a week and Metzelaar was only 8 years old."We could hear them ransacking the farm — it was close by. That was the scary part … 'Are they gonna come get me?' … I was aware that somebody wants to kill me."
Metzelaar is one of many Seattle-area survivors profiled in the exhibit, and that focus on local stories is what sets this Holocaust museum apart.
Ilana Cone Kennedy, Seattle-based Holocaust Center for Humanity's Director of Education, wants young students and adult visitors to leave thinking about injustices that are happening right now."Our actions make a difference … what we do, even the little things — good or bad — have a ripple effect. They matter," she said."The Holocaust was a perfect storm of things happening and it didn't have to be that way. It could have changed, had people done different things, like stood up … and there were people who did. There just weren't enough of them."
Metzelaar was able to go to the Netherlands and meet the children of the couple who saved him."I sat next to the daughter and I asked her, ‘What made your parents do what they did?' Her straight answer was: they felt it was the right thing to do," Metzelaar said.
The museum opens in Belltown on Sunday and after that will be open twice a week. Visitors are asked to make reservations online at HolocaustCenterSeattle.org.
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Holocaust Museum opens Sunday in Seattle
King 5 reported from the Holocaust Center on Thursday, October 15.
SEATTLE -- It's the personal items that catch the eye - A leather shoe, a pair of eyeglasses, a yellow star patch stamped "Jude."
These are just some of the artifacts on display at the Holocaust Center for Humanity museum, which will open Sunday October 18 in Seattle.
The center has been supporting teachers with Holocaust education materials since 1989, but this is the first space dedicated to allowing students and the public to view and interact with historical artifacts, traveling exhibits and to hear from speakers.
Seventy-nine-year-old Peter Metzelaar is one of those speakers. His family perished in Auschwitz. He and his mother survived, sheltered by a Christian farmer's family.
Metzelaar eventually met the daughter of the family that rescued him.
"I asked the daughter, 'Why did your parents do this? At the risk of not only themselves but their entire family?' And her one answer was, 'They felt it was the right thing to do,'" said Metzelaar.
He tells students to reject bullying and practice tolerance so that the Holocaust never happens to anyone again.
The Holocaust Center for Humanity opens to the public Sunday Oct. 18. Hours are 10am-4pm. Reservations required. For information, go to www. holocaustcenterseattle.org.
Watch the segment here
New museum brings Holocaust story home to Seattle
Crosscut Magazine's Matt Spaw reports:
A suitcase, with its mundane contents laid out, is on display at the Pacific Northwest's first Holocaust museum: the shoes of a family, a comb, eyeglasses...
Matt Erlich, son of survivors, speaks at Veterans Memorial Museum in Chehalis
A Day of Reflection on Holocaust at Veterans Museum
By Justyna Tomtas |
Local high school students met at the Veterans Memorial Museum in Chehalis Tuesday to learn about painful and tragic events in an effort to ensure that history would not repeat itself.
The day marked the 70th anniversary of the liberation of one of the most notorious death camps in Europe, Auschwitz-Birkenau. According to Matthew Elrich, of the Holocaust Center for Humanity in Seattle, 1.1 million people went through the death camp’s gates, never to return again.
“We have to constantly keep in front of us what went on during that time so we as students and adults do everything in our power to not allow that to happen ever again,” Robert Sande, a social studies teacher at W.F. West High School, said.
Elrich gave a presentation on his mother’s life and the effects the dark period of history had on his family. She survived the Holocaust and was among those saved on liberation day.
His mother, Felicia Lewkowicz, died six years ago from cancer, but her story was told vividly, marking the trials and tribulations she experienced during her time in Europe. “It’s important to understand the greater lessons of the Holocaust, why we use a capital ‘H’ for this one,” Elrich told the students.
Lewkowicz was born in Krakow, Poland, in June of 1924 and lived a normal life until the Nazis
came to power and decided Jews, among others, were an inferior race. The ethnic cleansing, which later took place, attempted to rid the world of unwanted ethnic and religious groups.
After leaving the Krakow ghetto, Lewkowicz found work elsewhere until the day she was arrested as a political prisoner and taken to Auschwitz in August of 1944. Continue Reading
Posted: Thursday, January 29, 2015
Holocaust survivor shares his story with Boise students
KTVB - BOISE -- More than 300 middle schoolers at Les Bois Junior High got a chance to learn a history lesson you just can't get out of a book Wednesday.
They gathered in the school's gym as Holocaust survivor Peter Metzelaar told the story of his life.
Metzelaar is fortunate to be alive.
Hiding from German soldiers for more than four years during World War II, he escaped death and torture in the Nazi concentration camps.
He now shares his story of survival with students across the country.
"I feel fortunate to be alive, and feel very sad," Metzelaar told KTVB when asked how he felt about the experience.
Angela Harvey is an 8th grade English teacher who studies and teaches Holocaust literature. She reached out to this survivor and helped bring him to Boise.
"When the students actually hear a Holocaust survivor's testimony, it becomes part of them," Harvey said. "It's different from seeing it in a book or a movie. They actually can carry that story on long after the Holocaust survivors are gone."
Students like Katherine Kerkman sat in silence for nearly two hours as Metzelaar spoke.
"I thought It was really interesting," Kerman said, adding that she learned more through actually meeting the man than simply researching the topic online.
Metzelaar's story is one of intense stress and good fortune. Read More
KTVB - BOISE
by Matt Standal. Posted on March 12, 2014
Photo courtesy of KTVB
New Home For The Holocaust Center In Downtown Seattle
Opening October 2015.
Details Coming Soon.
IN THE NEWS!
The nation’s newest Holocaust museum, and the first in Washington state, is about to be unveiled in downtown Seattle. Its founders hope it will connect lessons from history with present-day issues.
The people behind the Holocaust Center for Humanity have been working in Washington classrooms for decades. Now they’ll have a permanent home in Seattle’s Belltown neighborhood, where teachers, students and the public can come to them. READ MORE
By Zahra Farah | Seattle Times staff reporter | June 11, 2014
The museum, scheduled to open in Seattle’s Belltown neighborhood, will display artifacts from the Holocaust and feature testimonies from survivors, an interactive exhibit exploring human-rights issues, a library and research center, and a classroom for up to about 100 students...
The museum, scheduled to open in January in storefront space in Seattle’s Belltown neighborhood, will display artifacts from the Holocaust and feature testimonies from survivors, an interactive exhibit exploring human-rights issues, temporary exhibits, a library and research center, and a classroom that can accommodate about 100 students.
The 6,000-square-foot museum at 2033 Second Ave. will be named for its largest donors: Henry and Sandra Friedman Holocaust Center for Humanity. So far, $1.5 million has been raised for the $3.4 million project. READ MORE
By Joel Magalnick, Editor, The Jewish Sound
Henry Friedman had a message for the nearly 100 school-aged kids and their parents who sat in the shell of what will soon become the museum that bears his name: “It’s not for Holocaust survivors,” he said. “It’s for you.”
The event, an award ceremony for the winners of the Holocaust Center for Humanity’s annual writing and art contest, also marked the groundbreaking, so to speak, of construction of the Henry and Sandra Friedman Holocaust Center for Humanity. When it opens in early 2015 at Second and Lenora in downtown Seattle, the center will be the first Holocaust museum in the Pacific Northwest and will nearly triple the amount of space the Holocaust Center has at its current location a block away, which it rents from the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle. READ MORE
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Holocaust Survivor Speaks at Everett Community College
By Julie Muhlstein, Herald Columnist -
It's a tangible piece of a terrible history. During a talk Wednesday at Everett Community College, Holocaust survivor Robert Herschkowitz passed around a mustard-yellow cloth Star of David. It is stamped with the letter J.
Framed in a small case, it doesn't look as old as it is. Like millions of other Jewish people in Europe, his grandmother was forced by the Nazis to wear the yellow badge more than 70 years ago.
Herschkowitz was a child from Belgium during World War II. To survive, his family fled their homeland. Their odyssey took them through France, into a Nazi-run camp and eventually through the Alps on foot to safety in Switzerland.
The Bellevue man has told his story before, at EvCC and to other groups around the region. Now 76, he continues to share his memories so that others will never forget.
His talk Wednesday was part of the annual EvCC “Surviving the Holocaust” speaker series, now in its 15th year. Humanities instructor Joyce Walker brings Holocaust survivors to campus for her Humanities 150D class. The talks are open to the public.
“It's always an honor to listen to him,” Walker said. “It's becoming increasingly difficult to hear the direct stories.” The first two speakers in this spring's series were descendants of people who lived through the Holocaust. Continue Reading
Anne Frank Tree Sapling
The Holocaust Center, in partnership with Seattle Parks and Recreation, was one of 11 organizations chosen to receive a sapling from the original Anne Frank Tree. After more than 3 years in quarantine, the sapling has arrived in Seattle! It will remain in the care of Seattle Parks and Recreation until it is ready to plant in the spring 2015. Stay tuned for more details about the planting ceremony!