As time marches on, our aging Holocaust survivors are finding it increasingly difficult to travel and present their stories. The Holocaust Speakers Bureau (HSB), a component of the Center for Holocaust, Genocide and Human Rights Education of North Carolina (the Center), is shifting its presentation focus to the children and grandchildren of Holocaust survivors (known as 2Gs and 3Gs) and concentration camp liberators. The feature article below is an excerpt from Sheldon Bleiweiss’ story and illustrates how 2Gs and 3Gs contribute to Holocaust education.
Sheldon “Shelly” Bleiweiss, Holocaust Educator
“Each year, there are fewer and fewer survivors who can bear witness to the horrors of the Holocaust. Though I did not witness the Holocaust firsthand, as a child of survivors I can still offer a personal connection to the Holocaust by sharing my parents’ stories and by talking about my own visits to some of the death camps in Poland. “My parents were both from Poland. They met in a transit ghetto and fell in love there. They survived by taking on fake identities as Polish laborers. Such stories of survival are not as well known as those of camp survivors or those who went into hiding, and so they add a different perspective to the survivors’ legacy.
“In 1984, I attended the 1st International Conference for Children of Holocaust Survivors where Elie Wiesel was the keynote speaker. He challenged us, the children, to ‘pledge to carry the torch’ of our families’ Holocaust stories so that the world would never forget. I accepted that challenge, and today I speak to students as a way to honor my parents and memorialize my family members lost in the Holocaust.
“I have presented to individual classes as well as to large groups of students. My presentations include: 1) a basic overview of the events of the Holocaust; 2) how and why the Holocaust happened; 3) why we should talk about the Holocaust today; 4) my parents’ stories and my visit to Poland; and 5) what it was like growing up in the shadow of the Holocaust.
“In societies, including our state of North Carolina, filled with hateful rhetoric and discriminatory actions, it is important for students to learn why the Holocaust happened and why we need to work together to prevent anything like it from ever happening again.”
To arrange for Shelly Bleiweiss to speak (or other 2Gs), please visit our websiteand search for contact information under the Speaker tab. Email him (or another prospective speaker) directly.
Elie Wiesel (1928–2016)
"I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented."
―Elie Wiesel, Nobel Prize acceptance speech, 1986.
We mourn the passing of Elie Wiesel, Holocaust survivor, humanitarian, scholar, teacher, writer, political activist and Nobel Laureate. May his memory be for a blessing and may his teachings shape the future of the world.
Before It’s Too Late: The Holocaust Through North Carolina Eyes
A Film for PBS Broadcast and Schools
We are the last generation to personally know eyewitnesses to the Holocaust. Because our opportunity is fleeting, the Center has begun plans to produce an ambitious project: Before It’s Too Late: The Holocaust Through North Carolina Eyes, a documentary film that tells a unique North Carolina story.
Told through the voices of our neighbors, we will hear from survivors, liberators and the children of survivors. Stories will be shared of Jews, supported by Gentile friends, who saved members of their European families and helped resettle émigrés; stories of Jewish scholars who found posts on campuses, including historically black schools; eyewitness accounts of Hitler’s rise and Nazi power, and of second- and third-generation descendants of survivors who grew up in the shadow of the Holocaust and with their own families’ stories.
These narratives urgently need to be preserved. To do so, the Center is partnering with the North Carolina Council on the Holocaust, the Jewish Heritage Foundation of North Carolina, and the Emmy Award-winning producer of the film Down Home: Jewish Life in North Carolina, Dr. Steven Channing. Before It’s Too Late will premiere on North Carolina Public Television. A companion 30-minute version for classrooms with accompanying lesson plans will be available for middle and high schools. Let us know if you have a North Carolina Holocaust story. Tribute opportunities are available to help fund the documentary. Contact Sharon Halperinfor more information.
View Our Documentary Shorts
The Center has produced 30-minute documentary videos on five of our local survivors. Each video contains photographs, maps, historical film footage, and documents along with the survivor’s testimony. The videos come with supporting lesson plans and activities designed by professional educators working at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill to help students explore the lessons of the Holocaust. Survivor videos include: Renee Fink—a three-year old child in hiding in the home of a Christian family in Amsterdam; Rebecca Hauser—a young woman deported from Greece to Auschwitz-Birkenau; Peter Stein—a child living in Prague, son of a Catholic mother and Jewish Father; Hal Myers—a child deported from Germany to a concentration camp in France; and Esther Lederman—a teenager hiding in a Polish farmhouse with four other Jews. The videos and lesson plans can be found on our website or by visiting our YouTube channel.
Kivu Youth United
The following article was written by Lenny Ndayisaba, an immigrant from the Democratic Republic of Congo. He and his family fled to Rwanda in 1996 and lived in refugee camps for nearly 18 years. They immigrated to the United States on July 1, 2014 and moved to Durham, North Carolina on Independence Day, 2014.
“The history of my people, the Tutsis in Kivu, an eastern area of the Democratic Republic of Congo (the Congo), has been filled with much strife and suffering. Starting in the 1980s, the government began to actively denounce the Tutsi presence in the Congo. Tutsis not only lost rights as citizens but this disenfranchisement progressed to active extermination by other ethnic groups abetted by government forces.
“Since then, hundreds of thousands of our brothers, sisters and parents have died from war, starvation and disease. Many people saved their lives by fleeing to neighboring countries including Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, and Ethiopia. There we were welcomed in refugee camps, assisted by the United Nations. These camps house over 120,000 refugees and conditions are poor. Life in these refugee camps is characterized by a lack of education, poor sanitation, inadequate medical care, and a paucity of adequate food and shelter.
“After arriving in the United States, Canada, and Europe some of my fellow emigrants decided to form an organization named Kivu Youth United. Our group is comprised of young leaders from the Kivu region who love their country and have a vision for a better future. The goals of Kivu Youth United are:
To facilitate the full integration and peaceful coexistence of people from different ethnic groups of the Kivu region who now live in the United States, Canada, and Europe
To organize an educational campaign to encourage completion of high school by students living in refugee camps and continuing their college studies after emigration
To strategize ways to encourage NGOs to invest in education, health and nutrition services in our home country
To conduct a fundraising campaign to assist youth group members with individual projects, organize an annual commemorative event for the victims of the Mudende Refugee Camp and other camps, and sustain the Kivu Youth Group so it can reach the aforementioned goals.
“We hope that one day the world will understand our goals and help us achieve them. Stay tuned for upcoming events.”
Host a Traveling Exhibit
TheNorth Carolina Council (NCC) on the Holocaust(a partner organization) provides educational traveling exhibits, available on loan, free of charge, to schools around the state. All exhibits are suitable for middle and high school students studying the Holocaust in their history, social studies, language arts, and social justice classes. Exhibits are on panels that can be hung on walls or supported by easels. The exhibits are described below and are available on a rotating basis.Contact the NCCto reserve one of these exhibits for your school.
Life After Survival: UNRRA and Child Survivors After World War II
This exhibit focuses on the relief efforts for child Holocaust survivors provided by the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA) in the Kloster Indersdorf Children’s Displaced Persons center near Dachau, Germany.
Fences, Walls, and Butterflies: Children Confront the Holocaust Through Art
The Fences exhibit features artwork created by Israeli students at the Yad Layeled art workshop. It is beautifully framed in 25 glass panels. It is an excellent tool for educators who wish to teach the Holocaust using visual arts.
Dr. Seuss Wants You! The Political Cartoons of Dr. Seuss 1941—1942
The Dr. Seuss exhibit features political cartoons against fascism, anti-Semitism, and bigotry that were published in PM, a New York daily newspaper.
Faces of Resistance: Women in the Holocaust
This exhibit features 32 women and explores their lives in ghettos, camps, and woods and during rescue operations while constantly under threat of annihilation. The exhibit requires approximately 1,000 square foot of space to display.
Triumph of Life
A 2003 exhibit commemorating the 60th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. Individual stories of Jewish resistance to Nazi oppression are highlighted.
The Kindertransport Journey: Memory Into History
This exhibit documents the journey of children who were saved by the British government in the sole attempt by a government to rescue unaccompanied children from Nazi occupied Europe. Photos, personal testimonies, and historical background are included.
As part of the NCC’s Traveling Suitcase Project, teachers can borrow, free of charge, two suitcases filled with materials and artifacts related to the Holocaust: the Diaries of Children and the Survival Story of Auschwitz Survivor Susan Cernyak-Spatz. To view a detailed inventory of each suitcase and to download a request form, visit the NCC website.
Additional Teaching Resources Available From the Center
The Center’s websiteboasts a large collection of helpful resources for teachers and students, including DVDs, books, and posters, all available to borrow, and a wide array of online documents and videos from around the web.Contact Sharon Halperinto arrange a loan.
Upcoming Events and Programs
Screening of the film Denial on October 23, 2016 atThe Carolina Theatre, Durham at 2pm. Co-sponsored with the Duke Center for Jewish Studies. Academy award winner Rachel Weisz stars in this riveting, true-life drama about the courtroom showdown between historian Deborah Lipstadt and notorious Holocaust denier David Irving. The film is based on Deborah Lipstadt’s book, History on Trial: My Day in Court with a Holocaust Denier. Neil Siegel, Professor of Law and Political Science at Duke Law School, will join us for a post screening discussion. Please contact Rose Mills for more information.
Holocaust Survivor, Sol Lurie, of Monroe, New Jersey, will provide a firsthand, eyewitness account of his teenage years spent in numerous concentration camps on Monday, November 21, 2016, 7 pm. Sol is visiting our community for the Thanksgiving holiday and has graciously agreed to share his harrowing experiences with us at the Durham-Chapel Hill Jewish Community Center. Please contact Lana Onypchuk at the JCC for more information. Discussion with Danielle Bailey, author of The Hidden Children of France 1940-1945: Stories of Survival. Danielle will be visiting Durham from her home in Paris, France and will be speaking at Duke University on Thursday evening, March 2, 2017, location at Duke University TBD. This event is co-sponsored by Duke Center for Jewish Studies, the Coalition for Preserving Memory, and Jewish Life at Duke.
Rabbi Joseph Polak discusses his award-winning memoir, After the Holocaust: The Bells Still Ring on Sunday morning, May 7, 2017 at Beth El Synagogue in Durham, NC (Time TBD). The Center is proud to co-sponsor, with Beth El Synagogue, Rabbi Polak’s visit to Durham. After the Holocaust the Bells Still Ring is a winner of the 2015 National Jewish Book Award. The memoir portrays a mother and child’s survival in the concentration camps and their later struggles.
“It is the story of a child who decides, upon growing up, that the only career that makes sense for him in light of years of horror is to become someone sensitive to the deepest flaws of humanity, a teacher of God’s role in history amidst the traditions that attempt to understand it—and to become a rabbi.”
In the Works: A community event with refugees residing in Durham, North Carolina (date and location TBD)
The Center and Church World Service (CWS) are collaborating on a community program focusing on refugees who have recently arrived in the Durham area to find a safe haven and begin their lives anew. CWS welcomes refugees and immigrants to the Triangle. They provide employment, case management, and other social services to newly arrived refugees. They also have a Board of Immigration Appeals―a recognized immigration legal services program that assists refugees, asylum seekers, and a limited number of other low-income immigrants on a case-by-case basis.
This event is currently in the planning stage. The vision is for a rotating bi-monthly potluck involving faith communities from around Durham and the Triangle area, where different communities will take turns hosting. Each dinner will invite and include refugees and locals. These potlucks will provide an opportunity to share food, cultures, and conversation.
If you are interested in helping with these events or wish to make a donation to help support local refugees, pleasecontact Sharon Halperin.
Witnessing the Witnesses: Teaching the Holocaust in North Carolina
Over the March 4th weekend, the Center hosted a sold-out workshop for educators at the Chapel Hill Public Library. The 2-day workshop introduced educators to Holocaust survivors and children of survivors who shared their personal stories. Teachers viewed the documentary shorts we produced and were introduced to the lesson plans and classroom activities specifically designed to accompany each video. Scholarly lectures on topics ranging from US Immigration Policy During World War II to The Global Refugee Crisis were provided by local historians and researchers. Participants of the workshop also attended a Shabbat service at Judea Reform Synagogue and learned about the basic tenets of Judaism.
We are currently seeking the children and grandchildren of Holocaust survivors, refugees and concentration camp liberators, who reside in North Carolina and who are willing to visit schools, houses of worship, and organizations to share their experiences. We can assist prospective speakers with presentation material and coaching.
We need volunteer drivers who can provide safe and reliable transportation for our aging Holocaust survivor speakers to schools and other venues within an hour drive of the Triangle. Mileage can be reimbursed.
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We at The Center would like to give a heartfelt thank you to all of our donors! Your donations make our work possible and ensure that the memories and lessons of the Holocaust continue to be passed down from generation to generation. You can find alist of our Donorson our website.
The Center for Holocaust, Genocide, and Human Rights of North Carolina (Holocaust Speakers Bureau) is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that relies solely on individual and corporate donations to operate. Your tax-deductible donations help us to arrange speaking engagements, develop classroom activities for local schools, plan community events and Holocaust remembrance programs and produce state of the art digital material.
You maydonate onlineor you can send us a check. Let us know if your donation is in memory or in honor of a loved one (notifications will be sent out as requested). Please make your checks payable to the Holocaust Speakers Bureau and mail to:
Center for Holocaust, Genocide and Human Rights Education of NC
109 Half Moon Point
Chapel Hill, NC 27514
Happy Rosh Hashanah to all our Jewish colleagues, friends, and supporters! May each of you be healthy, joyous and prosperous in the New Year!
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