King5 News | April 15, 2018 | By Ted Land

 

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Soon there will be no one to explain first-hand what they saw, heard, and felt during the Holocaust. A generation of survivors, now in their 90s, is disappearing.

Henry Friedman: "My enemy today is time."

Henry Friedman can still describe living in a Polish ghetto, then hiding in a barn to avoid the death camps and slowly starving before liberation.

"It took us many years for Holocaust survivors to be able to speak, to get over the pain that was inside of us."

Friedman and others are still able to gather at Seattle's Holocaust Center for Humanity to speak about what they witnessed. But who will tell these stories when the survivors are gone?

Jack Schaloum: "I felt there was a heavy responsibility that needed to be done."

Jack Schaloum is among a younger generation who now has the obligation of explaining the consequences of hate.

Jack Schaloum: "It was something that I needed to do."

Schaloum visits schools and talks on behalf of his late mother, Magda Schlaoum.

Magda Schaloum, in video testimony: "They took my brother away, and my mother was devastated."

Jack Schlaoum: "It haunted her until the day she passed."

Schaloum and Ingrid Steppic are what are called Legacy Speakers, keepers of their families stories, who picked up where their families left off.

Ingrid Steppic: "I didn't do this years ago. I was busy raising my own family. But later I realized if we don't tell the stories, they get lost."

They may not have the same painful perspective...

Henry Friedman: "Hatred is a virus."

But the message endures.

Henry Friedman: "The most important thing is not to hate."

 

Ingrid Kanis Steppic, the first of four speakers in EvCC’s annual “Surviving the Holocaust” series, talks about her parents helping hide 40 Jews in The Netherlands during the Nazi occupation and her father warning others not to register but to hide. (Dan Bates / The Herald)HeraldNet - Everett | April 13, 2018 | By Julie Muhlstein

Ingrid Kanis Steppic is a daughter of the Dutch resistance. She was born in 1943, three years after the Nazis invaded her homeland. Throughout the occupation, her parents sheltered and helped Jewish “hiders.”Ingrid Kanis Steppic is a daughter of the Dutch resistance. She was born in 1943, three years after the Nazis invaded her homeland. Throughout the occupation, her parents sheltered and helped Jewish “hiders.”

“It was very dangerous,” Steppic told students Wednesday at Everett Community College.

She was too young to have clear memories of life in The Netherlands during World War II. What she can share are the heroic and haunting experiences of her parents, Jan and Nel Kanis, during German occupation.

Her father Jan Kanis and an older sister were both imprisoned for their involvement with the Dutch underground. Her family wasn’t Jewish, but throughout the Nazis’ five-year hold on Holland they provided shelter, food and other help — assisting some 40 Jews in all.

Steppic, who is 74 and lives in Seattle, was the first of four speakers scheduled as part of EvCC’s Humanities 150D class, “Surviving the Holocaust.” She’s part of the Seattle-based Holocaust Center for Humanity’s speakers bureau. The annual Holocaust series, now in its 19th year, is open to the public.

For nearly two decades, the class has been taught by EvCC instructor Joyce Walker. She began Wednesday’s program with a mention of previous speakers who have died. They include Holocaust survivors Thomas Blatt, Fred Taucher and Robert Herschkowitz and Army veteran Leo Hymas, who was among the liberating forces. Their loss points to the importance of second-generation survivors as keepers of Holocaust memories.For nearly two decades, the class has been taught by EvCC instructor Joyce Walker. She began Wednesday’s program with a mention of previous speakers who have died. They include Holocaust survivors Thomas Blatt, Fred Taucher and Robert Herschkowitz and Army veteran Leo Hymas, who was among the liberating forces. Their loss points to the importance of second-generation survivors as keepers of Holocaust memories.

On Thursday, international Holocaust Remembrance Day or Yom Hashoah in Hebrew, The New York Times published a survey showing that many Americans lack knowledge of the Holocaust. According to the survey of 1,350 adults, 41 percent of them and 66 percent of millennials cannot say what Auschwitz was — the extermination camp in Poland. And 31 percent, or 41 percent of millennials, believe 2 million or fewer Jews — rather than 6 million — were killed.

A day before the Germans invaded Holland on May 10, 1940, the Kanis family had moved to the city of Amersfoort, where Jan Kanis managed the post office. The Dutch battled the Germans for just five days. Liberation wouldn’t come for five years, on May 5, 1945.

From his job, where he saw returned mail and death notices, Kanis knew early that Jews weren’t just being rounded up — they were being killed. He warned Jews not to register, and not to show up at the train station as ordered.

“These were not nameless people — they lived and worked in our town,” Steppic said.

The Kanis family, with five children, sheltered two Jewish couples. One couple, the Schnells, were later forced to dig their own graves before being shot to death by the Nazis, Steppic said. “All our other hiders did survive,” she said.

Her sister Ali was imprisoned at 17, Steppic said, for bringing money to striking rail workers. The Netherlands’ Queen Wilhelmina had fled to England, but sent word asking that railroads go on strike, a tactic meant to hinder German progress.

In 1944, Jan Kanis was sent to the Dachau concentration camp in Germany for taking part in a raid to get ration stamps. He survived, but was sickly when he came out of the camp in 1945.

His family had been feeding not only themselves, but those they were hiding. In what was called the “hongerwinter” of 1944-45, thousands of Dutch people starved to death. Steppic said many ate tulip bulbs.

Steppic showed a marker placed at Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial in Israel. In 1970, her parents were recognized at the memorial as the “Righteous Among the Nations.”

She still has sisters in The Netherlands. She married an American soldier, Richard Steppic, and moved to the United States in the 1960s.

Through email, she has been in touch with a New Jersey woman, Maud Dahme, who, during the war, was helped to hide by Jan Kanis. On the other side of the country, Dahme has shared her story of being a “hidden child.”

There was another Everett event in observance of Holocaust Remembrance Day. At Temple Beth Or, a Reform Jewish synagogue, six candles were lit in memory of the 6 million who died, and the Mourner’s Kaddish prayer was recited Wednesday evening.

That somber rite was followed by an educational program, “no. NOT EVER,” presented by the Seattle group If You Don’t They Will.

Temple Beth Or’s social action committee organized the gathering. It included discussions of white nationalist groups and tactics for countering racism. Participants included people from other faith communities and local organizations.

In small groups, people talked about possible responses to several scenerios: Students starting a “white pride” group at school; posters appearing that attack tribal fishing rights; or public art being vandalized with swastikas.

Pam Lonergan is a Temple Beth Or member from Monroe. After discussing anti-Semitism and other brands of hate in today’s world, she was asked about appropriate ways to remember the Holocaust. “This is it,” she said.

Corvallis Gazette-Times | April 10, 2018 | By Lillian Schrock

The months of March and April remind Henry Friedman of his rebirth.The months of March and April remind Henry Friedman of his rebirth.

Friedman was 16 years old when he and his family were liberated by Russian soldiers in March 1944 from their hiding space in a Polish village. Friedman weighed 84 pounds. His body was infested with lice and fleas, and his skin was pockmarked from the insects’ bites.

For 18 months, the Jewish Friedman family had hidden in the loft of a barn. It was a space the size of a queen-size mattress, shared by Friedman, his brother, their mother and a teacher who had come to live with them when World War II started. They had been unable to stand without hitting their heads. There had been little food to share. They lived in constant fear of detection and death.

Two weeks after being liberated, Friedman became sick with typhus and spent a month in the hospital. His muscles had atrophied from the time in the loft, and doctors warned he may not walk again.

“This is probably the most important month in my life because 74 years ago I was hanging onto life. Any hour I could have been dead,” Friedman said Tuesday from his hotel in Corvallis. “So this is like being born again.”

Friedman is now 89 years old and lives in Seattle. He will tell his story during a public lecture at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Oregon State University’s LaSells Stewart Center.

The lecture is part of OSU's 32nd annual observance of Holocaust Memorial Week. The program seeks to promote awareness of the Holocaust in an effort to combat prejudice and foster respect for diversity.

Friedman was born in Brody, Poland, a town that was home to nearly 10,000 Jews prior to World War II. Fewer than 100 remained by the end of the war. Brody fell to the Germans in 1941, and many Jews were sent to death camps. Others were forced to live in a ghetto before later being deported to death camps. Germans took over the Friedman family farm, forcing the family members to work for no pay.

In February 1942, a teenage girl who worked as a maid in the local police station alerted Friedman’s father that the Gestapo was coming for him. That’s when the family went into hiding, with Friedman’s father finding refuge in a hayloft near the barn were they hid. Friedman’s mother was pregnant when they went into hiding. They suffocated the baby to prevent detection.

After liberation, in 1945, the Friedman family fled to a displaced persons camp in Austria. In 1949, the family arrived in the United States and settled in Seattle. Ten months later, the Army drafted Friedman to serve in the Korean War. In 1955, Friedman met the woman who would become his wife, and they had three children.

For many years, Friedman struggled to tell his story because it was too painful. In 1983, he attended the First American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors in Washington, D.C. He felt gratified to be alive and living in the United States. Yet, as the country prepared to build an official memorial to the Holocaust, Friedman came across an article written by a man who believed the Holocaust was a hoax.

“I turned to my wife, I said, ‘Honey, if the Holocaust didn’t happen, what happened to all my family? Where are they?’” Friedman said. “And I decided at that time I couldn’t be silent any longer.”

In 1989, Friedman started the Holocaust Center for Humanity in Seattle, providing curricula about the Holocaust to Washington teachers. In 2015, the center opened to the public with a museum and classroom dedicated to Holocaust education.

Friedman also travels the world to share his family’s story and has published a book about his experiences, titled “I’m No Hero: Journeys of a Holocaust Survivor.”

He said his goal is to encourage people that they can make a positive difference in others’ lives.

“One person can make a difference,” Friedman said. “So my point always is, don’t be indifferent when you can make a difference.”

He remembers the teenage maid who risked her life to save his family.

“This lady was asked, ‘Why did you risk your life?’ and she said ‘How could I not?” Friedman said.

“So how could I not?” he said about sharing his story.

Matthew w Lt. Joseph Edouard Naval Hospital Bremerton

Navy News Service | April 12, 2018 | By Douglas H. Stutz, Naval Hospital Bremerton Public Affairs

BREMERTON, Wash. (NNS) -- For Lt. Joseph Edouard, listening to Matthew Erlich share his mother's harrowing plight of concentration camp survival under the Nazis was more than a somber history lesson.

It was a vivid reminder of a personal family tragedy writ large.

Erlich, as key-note speaker discussed how his mother, Felicia Lewkowicz, endured arrest, internment, and death camp sentencing during the Second World War at Naval Hospital Bremerton's Holocaust Remembrance Observance on April 9, 2018.

The theme for this year's Holocaust Remembrance Day commemorated on April 12, 2018, was 'The Power of Words,' which Erlich, from the Holocaust Center for Humanity, used to explain the horror of the dehumanizing imprisonment and systematic genocide being carried out at that time that trapped his mother and countless others. 

"She was born in Krakow, Poland, on June 24, 1924. She remembered playing along the Vistula River as a child," said Erlich, adding that Felicia grew up speaking Polish, along with Yiddish, a linguistic mix primarily of Hebrew and other local dialects from central and Eastern Europe. 

A family photo taken in 1938 showing eight members was shortly reduced to just Felicia after Nazi Germany invaded Poland on Sept. 1, 1939. Krakow became a suffocating ghetto with the Jewish population persecuted, terrorized, and killed.

Edouard's family also experienced anti-Semitism in Budapest, Hungary. Although Hungary was a Nazi Germany ally in the early years of the war, by 1944 those sentiments had shifted. The initial understanding that no Hungarian Jews would be sent to Nazi Germany concentration camps suddenly became moot. Tens of thousands were rounded up and summarily shipped to their death. 

The brother of Edouard's grandfather Paul Fejer was sent to a concentration camp never to be seen or heard from again. 

Although Fejer wasn't shipped off to a camp, he ended up in a different kind of hell. He was detained and forced into a special Jewish working unit of the Hungarian Army that was tasked to carry out dangerous duties such as detecting landmines and entering fields of fire to retrieve wounded personnel. 

"It was mind-boggling what he went through. They were given the most dangerous duties. It was like a death sentence but with a slim chance," related Edouard. "There was one time where he was given the choice of going with a group to the left or another group to the right and he chose the left group. Five minutes later the other group was blown up having stepped on a mine. He was lucky."

Erlich's mother finally took it upon herself to simply leave Krakow. She someone made it to the railway depot and climbed onboard a departing train without proper credentials, ample funds or a traveling permit. Using her moxie, she somehow even convinced a group of Nazi German soldiers to hide her from the train conductor when he was checking all passengers for tickets.

Felicia made it to Vienna, Austria, found a job, and even started dating. Yet it was through her boyfriend that she got arrested. When he was detained, a photograph of her that he had was enough for the local authorities to search for her. When they found her in August 1944, she was sent to Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland, less than 40 miles from her hometown of Krakow. 

"The stench alone of the camp was bad enough," Erlich shared. 

The Auschwitz gas chamber and the crematoria were always in use. Although estimates vary, it's approximated that 100,000 to 250,000 people were exterminated at the camp.

"There was ash from the crematoria falling all the time," recounted Erlich.

In late 1944, allied bombers from airbases in Italy were hitting targets in Germany, Hungary, and Poland. Felicia wanted a string of the bombs to drop on the camp and end it all.

"But because that did not happen, I am here. My daughter is here. Maybe someday she will do something great," Erlich said. 

The air campaign over Germany forced the Nazis to relocate many camps. Felicia was crammed - stuffed really, with thousands of others - into a cattle car and transported to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in northern Germany. 

"She thought it was pretty good compared to Auschwitz. At least there was no crematoria," said Erlich.

But it wasn't until mid-April, 1945 that British forces liberated the camp, initially built for 6,000 people, which had swelled to 60,000 prisoners. 

"Almost all with lousy teeth, scurvy, and typhus," Erlich said. 

There were times when Felicia's resolve weakened. Other times, she reached deep down to defiantly show her will to survive. Commandant Josef Kramer once hit her across the head and made her stand outside in the snow for hours without shoes. Others would come by and drop pieces of cloth to put under her feet. She was so angry that she didn't need them. 

That anger fueled her motivational fire to survive.

After being liberated by the British, Felicia assisted them in helping other camp survivors at the displaced persons camp at Lingen, Germany due to her ability to speak Polish, German and French, as well as Yiddish. It was there she met a Polish-British service member, Arthur Erlich, also from Krakow.

She ended up in Paris, France, studying to become a seamstress. Arthur and Felicia married and on July 3, 1948, immigrated to Canada before settling in Minnesota, where Matthew was born.

The marriage didn't last. Arthur's notion of a wife was one focused on cooking and cleaning. Felicia's notion was being part of the world and seeing as much of it as she was able. Although she suffered bouts of post-traumatic stress disorder, her backbone proved to be her strongest attribute.

"Arthur was old-school. Felicia's personality outshined anything. She had the spirit and will to live," Erlich said.

After relocating to the Monterey Peninsula, Calif., Felicia worked in providing banquet support from Camel to Pebble Beach to Pacific Grove. 
Interspersed throughout Erlich's historical lecture were short video clips of his mother addressing the camera and sharing her thoughts on her arduous journey.
Erlich noted that his mother often used what he refers to as 'holocaust humor' to make light of the deplorable and appalling conditions she was in.

One such example was the time a gentleman mentioned that he was a train enthusiast and commented to Felicia that he had once been a hobo and 'rode the rails for free.' Without missing a beat, Felicia replied back that she too, had 'rode the rails for free.' 

Felicia died in 2009 due to the effects of stage 4 lung cancer. She was almost 86 years young at her passing. 
"She was not afraid. She had already seen death," stated Erlich.

Edouard's grandfather also survived the war, yet before he was free to return home, he spent an additional year in a Russian prison camp in the frozen vastness of Siberia. 
Fejer, like Felicia and many others, were physically and psychologically hardened to survive. 

"My grandfather was like a dad to me. Along with my mother, he helped raise me. We had a close bond. He didn't like to talk a lot about his experiences during that time and although he wasn't that religious, he still paid a terrible price," Edouard said. 

Historical accounts estimate that approximately six million European Jews - as well as other 'undesirables' such as Gypsies, Slavs, ideological and political opponents - were killed by the then-German Nazi regime from 1933 until 1945.

NBC Montana | April 10, 2018 | By Larisa Casillas

A Holocaust survivor drew a big crowd at a Flathead Valley Community College auditorium. Guests spilled into the entrance of the building, and others had to stand on the sidelines.

Peter Metzelaar, who was born in 1935 in Amsterdam, was there to share his story. Metzelaar says he gives talks to let the younger generation know what the festering of baseless hatred can lead to. Last year Metzelaar did 41 talks through the Seattle-based Holocaust Center for Humanity.

Tuesday night’s talk in the Flathead was coordinated with the Glacier Jewish Community.

Unlike other holocaust survival stories, like Elie Wiesel’s memoir “Night,” which took place in a concentration camp, Metzelaar's story is one of close calls while hiding in the Netherlands as 7-year-old boy with his mother.

Although he and his mother managed to survive in the Dutch underground, moving around and relying on the kindness of strangers who risked their lives to help them, his entire family did not come back from the camps after the war was over.

His father defied the Nuremberg laws that prohibited Jews from owning boats. He went fishing in his row boat on one of the canals, was abducted, and Metzelaar and his mother never saw him again.

Metzelaar says he’s one of 14 active speakers with the Holocaust Center for Humanity.

“Some of them were actually staying at the camps, and others were hidden. We have a couple of people who snuck into the military; one gentleman was in a unit that liberated the death camps,” he said.

He says the work he’s doing with the Center for Humanity is very important to him.

“Through the years I’ve gotten thousands of letters from the kids. That is where I get my joy from, to make some impact on a different way of thinking about things even though Uncle Charlie said so and so – well look it up, maybe Uncle Charlie wasn’t quite right,” he said.

Metzelaar will be sharing his story again Wednesday at both Flathead High and Glacier High.

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