King 5 News | April 27, 2022
EDMONDS, Wash. — A new exhibition at Cascadia Art Museum in Edmonds showcases the work of holocaust survivor and artist Maria Frank Abrams.
She had a celebrated career including an array of group and solo shows. But like all the artists featured at Cascadia, Abrams’ work eventually disappeared from the mainstream art world.
The museum focuses on neglected or forgotten artists whose work spans the years 1860-1970. Many of them are women and people of color.
"Maria Frank Abrams is a great example of what we do here,” said Sally Ralston, Executive Director of Cascadia. "We are honored to showcase these artists again and bring their art here, and give them the respect their art deserves."
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The Reflector | April 18, 2022 | By Sebastian Rubino
Peter Metzelaar, a Holocaust survivor from Amsterdam, shared his story with students at Battle Ground High School during a presentation he gave on April 14.
Metzelaar, who is 86, was born in Amsterdam in 1935. In 1942, when he was 7 years old, the Nazis seized members of his family, who were Jewish. Metzelaar and his mother, Elli, found shelter on a small farm in Mekkinga in northern Holland with the help of Klaas and Roefina Post.
They later moved from place to place in hiding until the war ended in 1945.
“In Holland, it was a very small country, and at that particular time, there were only about 140,000 people of the Jewish faith,” said Metzelaar. “The Nazis took over in May of 1940. By the time it was over in May 1945, of the 140,000 (people), between 75 to 80% were murdered. I don’t even like to use the word killed. They were murdered intentionally.”
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FM News 101 KXL | March 16, 2022
Battle Ground, Wash. – Battle Ground High School world history teacher Amanda Fulfer is headed to Poland this July as a part of a program put on by the Holocaust Center for Humanity.
Fulfer tells KXL News “It’s a once in a life time opportunity.”
Fulfer says her background is in East Asian studies, but at the beginning of the pandemic when schools switched to online and changed some of its curriculum, she was told she’d be the only one teaching a brand new European history class and had to figure out how to prepare for it on her own. While prepping she quickly became fascinated by the story of the Holocaust and felt a calling to share those stories from that period to future generations. In Poland she’ll visit Auschwitz Birkenau, the Warsaw Ghetto and Schindler’s factory, saying it will give her a powerful perspective into what she teaches
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The Washington Post | February 3, 2022 | By Caitlin Gibson
During Paul Regelbrugge’s 12 years as a middle school English teacher, he saw firsthand the power of teaching Holocaust history through literature — not just for the adolescents in his classrooms but for their families, too. His former students and their parents still write to him, he says, to share how certain works — such as Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel’s “Night,” a memoir of Wiesel’s experience in concentration camps, and Art Spiegelman’s “Maus,” a Pulitzer-Prize winning graphic novel in which Jews are drawn as mice and Nazis are depicted as cats — have stayed with them, often revisited in family discussions.
So when news spread that a Tennessee school board had voted unanimously in January to remove “Maus” from its 8th grade curriculum, citing objections to nudity and profanity in the text, Regelbrugge, who is now director of education for the Holocaust Center for Humanity in Seattle, found himself receiving messages from former students once again. This time they were forwarding news stories about the ban, along with their own astonished reactions: Have you heard about this? How could they do this?
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Real Change | January 26, 2022 | By Dee Simon
International Holocaust Remembrance Day marks the 77th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp on Jan. 27, 1945. It is a day that the United Nations set aside so that the world would never forget the tragedy that defined the word “genocide.”
The Holocaust was the state-sponsored, systematic persecution and annihilation of European Jewry by Nazi Germany and its collaborators between 1933 and 1945. Six million Jewish men, women and children were murdered. Hundreds of thousands of others were targeted, including Roma, people with disabilities, Poles, gay men, Germans of African heritage, Jehovah’s Witnesses and political dissidents.
By observing this day of remembrance, we honor the survivors and victims of the Holocaust. We give ourselves the opportunity to reflect on the moral responsibilities of individuals, societies and governments. On this day, we challenge ourselves to actively fight hate in all its forms.
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Key Peninsula News | December 30, 2021 | By Grace Nesbit
At the Holocaust Center for Humanity in Seattle there is a student leadership board for students from all over Washington who learn about the Holocaust and related issues, such as genocide, antisemitism and prejudice. I am proud to say that this is my second year on the board.
What I have learned there suggests our society is moving backward.
One of the common themes in Holocaust education is preventing mass genocide from happening again. However, all around the world genocides have recently occurred or are occurring: Xinjiang, South Sudan, the Central African Republic, Ethiopia, Syria, Myanmar and in many other places.
How many of those have you heard of? Maybe one or two?
We in America have tunnel vision, which filters out every problem that doesn’t affect us.
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Fox2Now (Missouri) | August 23, 2021 | By Emily Manley
Lawmakers continue probe of critical race theory in Missouri schools despite results of district survey
(Excerpt) Dee Simon, Executive Director of the Holocaust Center for Humanity told lawmakers she’s concerned by banning CRT, students wouldn’t learn about certain parts of the Holocaust.
“To teach the Holocaust, educators need resources, and they need to understand why they are teaching the Holocaust,” Simon said. “I am a firm believer that if the Holocaust isn’t taught well, it’s better not to teach it at all because it could actually support anti-Semitism.”
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The Seattle Times | June 30, 2021 | By Jim Brunner
A Washington state lawmaker critical of COVID-19 vaccine mandates wore a yellow Star of David at a speech over the weekend — a symbol the Nazis forced Jews to wear during the Holocaust.
State Rep. Jim Walsh, R-Aberdeen, had the star affixed to his pink shirt during a speech to conservative activists at a Lacey church basketball gym on Saturday.
“It’s an echo from history,” Walsh wrote on a Facebook page where a video of the event was posted. “In the current context, we’re all Jews.”
The misappropriation of the infamous star symbol — used to identify Jews first for exclusion, and then for extermination — was criticized as deeply offensive by a local Holocaust education leader.
“Our government is making an effort to protect their own citizens, not kill them,” said Dee Simon, Baral Family executive director of the Seattle-based Holocaust Center for Humanity, which works to teach people about Nazi Germany’s murder of 6 million Jews during World War II. “It not only trivializes it, it distorts history.”
In an interview Tuesday, Walsh said he had been given the star by someone at the event, where most attendees were wearing one. He described some of the organizers as “deeply concerned about vaccine passports and vaccine segregation.”
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Friday, March 19, 2021
The Holocaust Center for Humanity is shocked and saddened by the recent murders in Atlanta that took the lives of eight people, including six Asian women. We grieve with the families and friends of the victims and the broader community.
While the motive for these murders is not yet known, they were committed at a time of increasing violent attacks on Asian American and Pacific Islanders and are rooted in racism and xenophobia.
The Holocaust Center stands in unity with the Asian and Pacific Islander communities and all people who are targeted with identity based violence. We remain dedicated to empowering individuals to learn from the past, fight for human dignity, and take action.
As a member of the Jewish Community Relations Council, we stand in solidarity.
Click here to read more.
The Mercer Island Reporter | March 4, 2021 | By Andy Nystrom
Mercer Island High School students connected with Holocaust survivors through the Holocaust Center for Humanity and other national Holocaust groups. "(These students) took their passion of creating a better and schoolwide understanding of the Holocaust to build student empathy and were able to create a schoolwide opportunity for students to speak directly with survivors of the Holocaust," said MIHS Principal Walter Kelly.
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The Seattle Times | January 21, 2021 | By Nina Shapiro
Dee Simon, executive director of the Holocaust Center for Humanity in Seattle, also applauded Biden’s call for unity, as well as what she called his focus on personal responsibility. She repeated the words Biden used, as he quoted President Lincoln: “My whole soul is in this.”
“It was exactly what we needed to hear,” she said, and a lesson from the Holocaust . “Each person could have made a difference,” and many did, including those who risked their lives to rescue Jewish people and others targeted by the Nazis.
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The Seattle Times | January 20, 2021 | By Nicole Brodeur
Dee Simon, the Baral family executive director of the Holocaust Center for Humanity in Seattle: “If anything, the Nuremberg trials gave us hope, because of the way they showed how civil society will find its way after it falls,” she said. “The trajectory always get s us a little bit better. There is the other side of it, where things are so much better now.”
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The Seattle Times | August 30, 2020 | By Nicole Brodeur
Dee Simon, the Baral family executive director of the Holocaust Center for Humanity, said some survivors build walls around their past; remembering and speaking about it is too hard. “It’s the people who speak out who are truly heroes,” she said of survivors like Henry Friedman. “Every time they spoke, it was painful for them .”
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Statement from the Holocaust Center for Humanity - June 1, 2020
Our Center’s mission includes three very important words, “preserve human dignity.” Human dignity was not given to George Floyd.
As our streets are exploding in protest, the death of George Floyd shouldn’t be seen as a stand-alone incident but as a societal shortfall which continues to plague our country. History has shown us that countries that reconcile with their history of violence and injustice emerge greater for their efforts. Germany and Rwanda are examples of countries that found the strength to confront their past.
After 250 years of slavery and 150 more years of injustice and systemic racism, what we see today on our streets is a cry for overdue action.
Our mission statement also includes the words “take action.”
- As many of us think of how we can make a difference, please take the time to review this list of ways to promote racial justice.
- To take action through education, share this list of 31 books that support conversations on race, racism, and resistance with young readers.
- For over three years, our Center has been taking action by training Seattle Police Department officers in our Holocaust museum to think critically about individual responsibility and maintaining core values.
As an institution that works to share the universal lessons of the Holocaust, we stand in unity with the African American community and remain dedicated to empowering individuals to learn from the past, fight for human dignity, and take action.
In partnership and peace.
Baral Family Executive Director
Holocaust Center for Humanity
The Seattle Times | December 1, 2019 | By Nina Shapiro
Dee Simon, the Baral family executive directorof the Holocaust Center for Humanity is trying to get to as many of the estimated 150 remaining survivors in Washington as possible, as well as to veter ans who liberated the camps, to take their testimony for the center’s online repository. Many have never told their story before, Simon said.
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Kent School District | November 2019
Each year, the Holocaust Center for Humanity in Seattle holds a Voices for Humanity Luncheon, where they highlight stories of local students and teachers who have been inspired by the lessons of the Holocaust to stand up for what's right. This year, three Kent School District students were featured and spoke at the event to an audience of almost one thousand people. Kent-Meridian High School students Abdullah Majeed and Matthew Sylvester and Kentridge High School student Rumela Weldeyesus shared their experiences learning about the holocaust, personal stories about prejudice and hatred, and their commitment to creating a better world.
"After learning about the Holocaust, I know I want to be a person who will speak up for others and be a good person in my life,” Abdullah said.
Last year, the students learned about the Holocaust in Paul Regelbrugge’s classroom at Meeker Middle School and had the opportunity to hear from Holocaust survivor Henry Friedman. Friedman's story inspired them to enter the Holocaust Center’s Writing, Art, and Film Contest.
Regelbrugge now works at the Holocaust Center developing ways to help educators across the state teach about the Holocaust and inspire students of all ages to confront bigotry and indifference, promote human dignity, and take action.
“I want to be an upstander,” Abdullah said. “I will always try to honor Mr. Friedman and the other survivors who I learned about at the museum. I want to try to tell other students about what I learned."
The Seattle Times | September 24, 2019 | By Nina Shapiro
David Frockt, the Seattle legislator, went to San Diego this spring for a bar mitzvah, the religious initiation ceremony for a Jewish boy who has reached the age of 13. At the synagogue stood two armed guards.
“Sadly, this is the reality of Jewish life in 2019,” said Frockt, noting that weeks before the bar mitzvah, a man walked into a synagogue 20 miles north of San Diego and opened fire, killing a woman who jumped in front of the rabbi. He thinks about that, and other recent violence against Jews, when he takes his own kids to synagogue in Seattle, worrying for their safety.
“Honestly, it crosses my mind every time,” the Democrat said.
He told the story Tuesday as Jewish leaders released a statement against anti-Semitism six months in the making. They are asking elected and civic officials to sign a separate pledge to fight such hatred. About 80 have already done so, including members of Congress, the Legislature and Seattle and King County councils.
The effort started after the October shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue that killed 11, and gained momentum amid an uptick in reported anti-Semitic incidents in Washington, along with other kinds of hate crimes.
While a fatal shooting took place in 2006 at the offices of the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle, there’s a new and visceral unease many Jews are feeling now, said federation President and CEO Nancy Greer. “I have not experienced this level of edginess or fear,” she said.
Even so, Greer said before the news conference at the Holocaust Center for Humanity in downtown Seattle, coming up with a statement “took some time to really have deep discussions.” She explained, “The Jewish community is complex. Organizations came from across religious and political perspectives.”
One of the challenges was simply defining anti-Semitism, taking into account thorny issues like if and when criticism of Israel crosses that line.
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) tracks reports of anti-Semitic incidents across the country taken from police documents, the media and watchdog investigations. In Washington last year, the ADL’s database cites 32 incidents, up from 20 the year before. They include many instances of graffiti, with a swastika being a common image, found everywhere from a park bathroom in Seattle to a fence in Maple Valley to a dry erase board at Whitman College in Walla Walla. A Jewish woman in Seattle also had her garage and pavement outside her home spray-painted with the words “Jew” and “(expletive) Jew thieve.”
Alt-right and white-nationalist groups have also distributed anti-Semitic flyers in the region, according to the database. Occasionally, anti-Semitism has turned confrontational, with one woman and child in Seattle verbally accosted outside by someone yelling slurs.
The ADL also collects information about other types of extremist and white-supremacist incidents, reports of which are also increasing in Washington, from 18 in 2017 to 45 last year.
Jewish leaders at the news conference acknowledged their common ground with others facing hate. Also attending was Nina Martinez, board chair of Latino Civic Alliance, an advocacy group, who spoke about verbal and physical assaults on immigrants in rural parts of the state. Even kids, she said, are spit upon, pushed and told “you’re illegal” or “go back to your country.”
She said she worked with Jewish leaders for the first time during the last legislative session on a bill that increased the penalties for hate crimes. “Phenomenal,” she said of their efforts, impressed by their energy and willingness to invest resources in the cause. The bill passed.
“They understood about our challenges,” Martinez added of Jewish leaders. “Sometimes we didn’t have to say too much.”
Still, there was a lot to talk about when it came to the statement on anti-Semitism.
Many agree such hate is on the rise, says Noam Pianko, a University of Washington (UW) professor of Jewish studies. “The real debate and difficulty is trying to understand where the anti-Semitism is coming from and how to address it.”
Liberals denounce far-right hate they feel has seeped into the mainstream under President Donald Trump, obscured by a pro-Israel stance. Conservatives find anti-Semitism in the harsh criticism of Israel on the left, and the growing boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.
Complicating it even more is that even liberal Jews have historically seen criticism of Israel the same way. In the past, Jews who took issue with Israeli policies were often labeled “self-hating Jews,” said Susan Glenn, another UW professor of Jewish studies.
Rabbi Jason Levine of Temple Beth Am, who participated in hammering out the statement, said, “it was very important to us that anti-Semitism did not become a partisan issue.”
As such, the final product, signed by 46 synagogues and Jewish organizations, says “antisemitism is found across the ideological spectrum.” While condemning “virulent antagonism toward Israel” and “drawing comparisons of contemporary Israel policy to that of the Nazis,” the statement also says, “it is important to note that criticism of Israeli government policies is not inherently anti-Semitic.”
The statement is not meant to definitively say whether any given remark or action is anti-Semitic, says Greer of the Jewish Federation, but to serve as a “starting point” for questions and conversation.
Sometimes, said Dee Simon, executive director of the Holocaust Center, “perpetrators don’t know what they’re doing.” She referred to the Mercer Island teens photographed this spring giving a Nazi salute. A week later, their parents brought them into the center, which displays pictures and artifacts documenting the history of the Holocaust.
She didn’t ask why they did what they did. She wanted to give them a tour like they were anybody else. They seemed engaged and asked lots of questions, she was pleased to note.
“One kid at a time,” she said.
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 live s 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.
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 committ ees. 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.
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 ver sus 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.
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-Ba iamonte 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 gover nment 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
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 enter ed 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.
Jewish in Seattle Magazine | April 15, 2019 | By Gregory Gutterman Scruggs
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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 Oma r 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.”
King5 | May 2, 2019 | By Drew Mikkelsen
Click here to view the video
83-year-old Peter Metzelaar tells his story with the hope that what happened to him will never happen again.
The Holocaust survivor usuall y 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.”
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 Polis h), “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
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.
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 preser ved 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.
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.
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, help ing 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.
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 indigenou s 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, Mer cer 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.”
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 eventuall y 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 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.”
King5 News | April 15, 2018 | By Ted Land
Click here to view the video
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 call ed 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."
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 help ed 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 live s 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.
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.
The Chronicle | March 8, 2018 | By Katie Hayes
After an audit orium 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
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.
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.
Read full article
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.
Huffington Post | June 7, 2017 | By Amy Pleasant, Contributor, Seattle Visual Artist and Writer
Read article at Huffington Post
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.
Winning writing and films, artwork and statements can be found here.
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.
Read full articleCarnation teacher helps students to greater understanding of Holocaust
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.
Read Full Article
King5 News | April 16, 2017 | By Lili Tan
Click here for King 5 Video
"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
SEATTLE -- The first museum in Seattle to honor the Holocaust opened its doors on Sunday, highlighting the stories of local victims and survivors.
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.
Henry and Sandra Friedman Holocaust Center for Humanity
Museum Grand Opening
It may seem hard to believe, but the Northwest doesn’t have a Holocaust Museum. That changes when the Henry and Sandra Friedman Holocaust Center for Humanity Museum opens its doors on October 18. The modest display walks visitors through the stages of the genocide and showcases artifacts from Holocaust survivors that settled in Seattle (passports, photos, letters, Star of David patches, and more) and a collection of items from Auschwitz (one of only three museum’s with items from the concentration camp on display). While the museum will mainly cater to school trips, it’s open to the public (with RSVP) on Wednesdays and first and third Sundays.
Thanks, Seattle Met!
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
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...
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