The Center for Holocaust, Genocide, and 

Human Rights ​Education of North Carolina 

Holocaust Speakers Bureau 

Speaker Biographies



The oldest child of two Holocaust survivors, Shelly Bleiweiss grew up in Houston, Texas, and now lives in Wake Forest.  His parents were both from Poland, and survived the Holocaust using false identities as non-Jews. 

Shelly has been teaching about the Holocaust since 2000, and spent 5 years as a docent at the Houston Holocaust Museum. He accompanied several thousand high school students on the week-long “March of the Living” trip to Poland as they explored the remnants of Jewish life there, and toured some of the death camps. 

Shelly is a member of the North Carolina Council on the Holocaust, a docent and Holocaust educator at Temple Beth Or in Raleigh, and teaches Holocaust courses for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute programs at Duke & NC State Universities. 

Shelly travels throughout the state, talking to students and community groups. He has been the featured speaker at several community Holocaust Commemoration ceremonies. 

In addition to sharing his parents’ stories, Shelly can provide a basic overview of the Holocaust, including a look at how and why the Holocaust happened, and why the Holocaust remains relevant today.  He adapts his remarks according to the needs of the audience and prefers to have an interactive and lively dialogue with them.  Please contact Shelly directly via email:​

Courtney Doi

Courtney Doi is the granddaughter (often referred to as a "3G") of a Holocaust survivor. Her grandmother, Judith Klein, the youngest of six children, left Berlin, Germany on the Kindertransport in December 1938 just after Kristallnacht. Judith lived with a foster family in the English countryside to avoid heavy bombing in the city. Judith’s father, two aunts, and two of her siblings died in concentration camps. One of Judith's siblings survived internment at the Theresienstadt concentration camp/ghetto, also known as Terezin.

Courtney and "Grandma Judith" visited Berlin in 2001 and 2005 where they visited her family's houses and memorials dedicated to lost relatives and attended a Nazi reparations case. Judith passed away in 2016, and Courtney inherited 30 years of her personal journals and essays. These writings address both childhood experiences from the war and the contrasting feelings of guilt and luck many survivors encountered. Courtney enjoys sharing her grandmother's words during her presentation to provide a first hand account.

Courtney will tailor her presentation to address important topics such as: the Kindertransport and the German Jewish refugee experience including why Jews did not leave Germany. She has spoken to groups of all ages, from fourth graders who just finished Lois Lowry's Number the Stars to retiree groups and everything in between.

To listen to Courtney sharing the reasons she tells her grandmother's Holocaust story, click here:

Please contact Courtney directly by email to arrange a presentation and tailor it to your need:


Born in the Netherlands, Renée Fink went into hiding at the age of four. She was fortunate in being able to stay with a Catholic Dutch family until after the war ended, when she was eight. Reunited with her grandmother,  they lived in another Dutch town until she came to the U.S. with her grandmother in 1948. Sadly, Renee and her grandmother were unable to live together, and she was sent to yet another family in the Adirondack mountains.

Although Renée had to live in an occupied and heavily bombed part of Holland during World War II, she shares with students why those times turned out to be her best years until she married. In her talks, Renée likes to stress the resistance, goodness, and courage of people in those times and why those traits remain so important. When speaking to schoolchildren, she shares a DVD created by the Holocaust Speaker’s Bureau of Chapel Hill, NC, that provides a good overview of the Holocaust and deals specifically with what was happening in Holland and with Renée.

Renée has spoken to students from fifth grade through university as well as to adult groups. She has been the keynote speaker at the North Carolina Council on the Holocaust’s annual commemoration and the Catawba Valley Interfaith Council. Renee has spoken at Duke University, the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill, and community colleges in various NC counties, women’s groups, church groups, retirement communities and more. Renee is often invited to address educators at teacher symposia and workshops. She has been the featured guest on UNC TV and WUNC radio (the State of Things). Home schooled children and their parents invite Renee to speak regularly. At the end of April 2017, Renee will be visiting Washington DC and addressing federal employees at a Yom Hashoah commemoration.

Click here to view a video of Renée's story. The North Carolina Civic Education Consortium has developed a lesson plan based the video: Survival and Resistance: Hidden Children of the Holocaust. Please contact Renee directly by email to arrange a presentation:

Irene Stern Frielich

Irene Stern Frielich is the daughter of a German Holocaust survivor. But that wasn’t talked about too much in her family home. She set aside the unspoken emotions that permeated her childhood and focused on her education, career, and family.

Irene’s quest began in 2017, when she re-discovered the testimony video her father, Walter Stern, made 24 years earlier, just before his death in 1994. She painstakingly transcribed her father’s 80-minute testimony and immersed herself into her father’s world of survival, loss, and hope, leading her on a quest to “touch” her father’s childhood and uncover the story of his Holocaust survival in Germany and Netherlands.

Through her subsequent research and visits to Germany and the Netherlands, Irene met with the descendants of people who played important roles in her father’s story. In her core presentation, Irene shares her father’s journey from escaping Nazi Germany on November 10, 1938 (his 12th birthday) through his liberation from a Dutch farm in 1945. She focuses on his families encounters with the 18 individuals who enabled them to survive. Meet the coffee roaster and baker, the farmers and clergy who demonstrated courage, compassion, and kindness from 1938-1945.

In a second optional presentation, Irene shares some of the most unexpected encounters during her “return home” to Germany and the Netherlands. These moments awakened the possibility of reconciliation and set her on a path toward healing.

Irene presents to adults and high school students. She is available for Zoom presentations or in person based on her travel schedule. Please visit for more information or contact Irene directly to schedule a presentation:


Steve Goldberg

Steve Goldberg has taught high school history for more than two decades and also has a law degree from Georgetown Law School. When Holocaust survivor Abe Piasek (1928-2020) came to speak at Steve's school, Steve was so taken by Abe's story that he is taking time away from the classroom for a few years to tell Abe's story. 

Abe's powerful story of survival during the Holocaust went untold for nearly 50 years and lives on through interviews Steve conducted with him, along with video clips of Abe's various speeches. Steve provides context for those clips -- including maps and artifacts -- to help audiences better connect with Abe's story.

Steve’s ultimate goal is to share Abe's compelling personal story of what can happen when prejudice and hate go unchecked. Steve is available to speak to groups of all ages. Please contact him directly by email to arrange a presentation: 


Sharon Halperin is the daughter of two Holocaust survivors from Poland and Latvia. Her mother survived the war by living in the forests of Poland. Her father escaped from the Riga (Latvia) Ghetto when his unit was tasked with digging ditches in a nearby forest. Both of her parents fled eastward as the war progressed and met in Russia, where they married. At the end of the war, they lived in several Displaced Persons Camps in Germany. In 1947, they immigrated to the United States. Sharon has worked on annual Holocaust commemorative services and events for over 30 years and has taught mini-courses that focus on lessons of the Holocaust, the use and abuse of power, resistance and rescue, and the role of personal responsibility.  Sharon is happy to speak to groups of all ages about her parents’ experiences during the war in Poland, Latvia and Russia. She includes the topics of Displaced Persons Camps and Immigration to the United States. Please contact Sharon directly by email:


Bonnie Hauser is the daughter of Rebecca Hauser, a Holocaust survivor from Ioannina, Greece. In 1944, Rebecca and her family and the entire Jewish community of Ioannina were deported to Auschwitz.  She was later transferred to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp complex. As Allied and Soviet forces advanced into Germany in late 1944 and early 1945, Bergen-Belsen became a collection camp for thousands of Jewish prisoners evacuated from camps closer to the front. The arrival of thousands of new prisoners, many of them survivors of forced evacuations on foot, overwhelmed the meager resources of the camp. In April, 1945 British forces liberated the camp. Rebecca is the only survivor from her family. Rebecca’s testimony is captured in our video library.

During the years of jointly presenting with her mother, Bonnie compiled photos and other materials that capture her mother’s gripping story of survival.  Since Rebecca retired from speaking in 2014, Bonnie has continued to share Rebecca’s story with groups. She supplements her talk with segments of her mother’s video testimony and a PowerPoint presentation. Please contact Bonnie directly via email:   

Rebecca Yomtov Hauser, 95, passed away peacefully at home on April 16th. 

She is survived by her children Edward (Deborah), Bonnie, and Mark (Kathleen)

Hauser, grandchildren Brian, Matthew and Michael Hauser, Laura Hauser O’Keefe

(Tom), and great grandson Arthur O’Keefe.  She is preceded in death by husband

Manny Hauser. 

Rebecca was born in Ioaninna Greece, in a Romanoite Jewish community.  

She was one of two thousand Ioaninna Jews deported to Auschwitz in 1944.  

She was the only survivor from her immediate family.

Rebecca came to the United States in 1947, where she met her husband, married and raised a family.  She lived in New York, Florida, Chapel Hill, and Carrboro. She worked as an assistant designer and sample maker.  At Tyler House of Chapel Hill, she made elegant dresses and gowns fit perfectly. She loved gardens, the beach and anything family. 

In recent years, Rebecca became known through her work with the Chapel Hill-Durham Holocaust Speakers Bureau.  Through this work, Rebecca shared her personal experience with thousands of students, teachers and parents.  Amidst the horrors of the Holocaust, she reminded young people to love America, focus on the positives, and to take responsibility for creating a more just world.  

Her video testimony is available through our website here.
Her memoir is available through Lulu Publishing.

Rebecca was deeply moved by disabled American and Israeli veterans who suffer a lifetime of hardships for the benefit of others. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be directed to “Disabled American Veterans” or “Friends of Israel Disabled Veterans - Beit Halochem”.

Rebecca will be most remembered for her joy of spirit, and her ability to move past difficulties to find laughter and love.  She leaves us with glorious smile and her favorite parting words: “be well, do well and have fun”.  


Diane B. Kunz is the daughter of two Holocaust survivors. Her mother was in the Lodz ghetto and Auschwitz, where her first husband was also murdered, and was then sent to a Gross Rosen satellite camp in Czechoslovakia. Her father was in the Kovno ghetto and Dachau. Her parents met and were married in the German DP camp of Feldafing, near Munich, and emigrated to the United States in 1949. Diane graduated from Barnard College and Cornell University Law School and also attended Columbia University Law School. She is also a diplomatic historian with degrees from Oxford University and Yale University and taught history for many years at Yale University and Columbia University. Her prize-winning books deal with twentieth century diplomatic history. For the last decade, Diane has run the Center for Adoption Policy, which breaks down barriers to international and domestic adoption. Diane is happy to speak to students and organizations. Please contact Diane directly to arrange a presentation:


Deborah Long’s mother was in the Lodz Ghetto, Auschwitz, Bergen-Belsen, and Salzwadel death/concentration camps. Her father survived the Bor death march and Flossenberg, Buchenwald, and Dora Nordhausen concentration camps. Deborah has been researching her family history and searching for surviving family members for more than 50 years. Her research at the beginning of 2009 led to the shocking discovery of family artifacts that compelled her to visit her ancestral villages as well as Germany to understand her parents’ Holocaust history. Deborah is a professional educator, though typically her audiences are licensed professionals. She has written more than 20 books, including a memoir about growing up as a child of survivors titled First Hitler, Then Your Father, and Now You.

In presentations, Deborah reviews her parents' Holocaust histories, focusing on the Lodz Ghetto, Auschwitz, and the Bor death march. Deborah has spoken to the International Association of Jewish Genealogy Societies, the Horace Williams Historical Society, Jordan High School, numerous public schools, and provided programs for the Jewish Federation.  Please contact Deborah directly by email:

Mike Lowder

Mike Lowder is deeply committed to keeping the history of the Holocaust alive in the minds and hearts of students and community members. Mike is unique among our speakers in that he has a Christian rather than a Jewish background. His research has given him an understanding of the role that the Christian church has played in anti-Semitism for centuries.  Mike is currently developing a presentation on anti-Semitism, tracing its roots from the early days of Christianity to the Holocaust in World War II.  He has also developed a compelling presentation on the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising that took place between April 19 and May 16, 1943.  

Mike has traveled to Germany and visited the Buchenwald concentration/death camp and the Nazi Documentation Center in Nuremberg. In the summer of 2018, Mike and his wife are traveling to eastern Europe where they plan to visit Holocaust sites in Prague, Budapest and Krakow. This trip includes a tour of Auschwitz.
Please contact Mike directly to arrange a speaking presentation;


Rose Mills is the daughter of two Holocaust survivors from Berlin, Germany.  Her parents had been married only two years before her mother was forced to flee Nazi Germany and escape to London in 1938.  At the outbreak of World War II, her father, who was delayed in following her mother to England, lost his chance to flee Germany. He eventually became a slave factory laborer but later escaped and hid in a tool shack for two years until he was liberated by the Russians in 1945.  Her parents were finally reunited in the US after a seven-year separation and settled in Chicago, where Rose was born and raised.  Rose is happy to speak to groups of all ages about her parents’ experiences during the war in Germany and in England.  Please contact Rose directly at


Eric Muller is the son and grandson of German Jewish refugees from the Nazis. He grew up hearing a great deal about his family’s experiences of mounting persecution in the Germany of the 1930s, of his father’s narrow escape from a noose-wielding band of Hitler Youth in Frankfurt, of his grandfather’s imprisonment at Buchenwald after Kristallnacht, and of the family’s escape into Switzerland in the final days of 1938. He also grew up hearing very, very little about the one who didn’t get out – his grandfather’s brother Leopold, who was deported from Germany in April of 1942 and met his end soon thereafter somewhere in Poland, very likely at the death camp Sobibor. As an adult he has looked for all of the scant traces of his great-uncle’s life and death, and has been surprised by how many such traces remain.

Eric grew up in southern New Jersey and has been a professor at the UNC School of Law since 1998. He is one of the leading national experts on the removal and imprisonment of Japanese Americans in the United States during World War II. He lives in Chapel Hill with his wife Leslie Branden-Muller, a clinical psychologist, and, when they’re home from college, their two daughters Abby and Nina. Please contact Eric directly to arrange a presentation:

Chaim (“C. J.”) Poran

Dr. Poran is the son of two Holocaust survivors. His mother was born in Belarus. As a young teenager, she endured the horrors of the Kovno ghetto, the Stutthof concentration camp, and in January 1945, survived a death march of the retreating Nazis. His father was born in Poland, and as a teenager, he escaped the invading Nazis and fled into Russia. When he returned to Nazi-occupied Poland he learned that his family had been murdered. He survived the rest of the war in hiding.  Over the last 18 years Dr. Poran has visited the birthplaces of his parents, as well as ghettos, concentration camps and extermination camps where his parents’ families were murdered by the Nazis.  Click here to read their survival story “Holocaust to Hope”.

In late 2016 Dr. Poran retired from working with the federal government where he had served as a Director of Infrastructure at the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), which invests large grants in the world’s poorest countries. Dr. Poran’s presentations are best suited for high school students, university students, and adults. At the end of his presentations, he encourages interactive discussions with the audience. Please contact Dr. Poran directly to discuss a speaking engagement at

Alexander “Lex” Silbiger

Lex clearly remembers when in 1940 German troops invaded his native Holland and when his fifth birthday party was interrupted by an air raid. In the following years of Nazi occupation, increasingly oppressive restrictions were placed on the Jews of Holland. Most people thought one just had to put up with this until the Allied forces would come and kick the Germans out; no one could conceive the fate that actually awaited them. 

When early in 1942 Lex's family got word through the Dutch resistance of the German plan for the Jews, his parents decided they needed to escape from Holland, no matter how dangerous and difficult. Without alerting their two children in advance, they left with them one morning, fleeing to Belgium and then to France, where they lived for almost half a year as “illegal aliens.” Lex and his older brother were not permitted to speak in public or make any friends, for fear that might betray them. Eventually they were able to get to Spain and board a ship that took them to Jamaica, where they were forced to stay in a refugee camp. Approximately a year after they had left Holland, they were finally admitted to Curacao, then a Dutch colony, where they could live in safety the rest of the war and where the children could resume their schooling.

In 1946, the family returned to Holland, and in 1952 Lex entered college in the United States. He moved to Durham in 1984 to become a Professor of Music at Duke University. In his earlier years, Lex also taught music to children of grade-school and high-school age, but now, in his retirement, he believes it is important to tell young people about the Holocaust years, about his experiences fleeing from Nazi oppression, and about trying to find a safe haven somewhere in the world. Please contact Lex to arrange a presentation at .

Judy Stevens

Judy Stevens is a child of Holocaust survivors. She was born and lived her early life in Hungary. Judy grew up hearing stories about her mother’s experiences in concentration camps and her father’s time performing forced labor in Sibera. 

She and her parents left Hungary in 1956 to escape the Communist takeover of her country, fearing a new wave of anti-Semitism. Her family sought a new life in Montreal, Canada.

When Judy’s father died in 1997, she realized that her parents stories had to be heard by as many people as possible. She has developed an exceptional presentation that documents her mother’s strong will to survive even as she protected and took care of her younger sister in Auschwitz-Birkenau and Theresienstadt.

Judy’s presentation can be paired with her husband Mike’s talk on Judaism and/or the history of the Holocaust. (See Mike’s bio below.)

Judy has taught elementary school and adult education, including ESL and GED classes.  She and her husband moved to Holly Springs, North Carolina, in July 2017.

Please contact Judy directly to arrange a presentation at

Rabbi Michael (Mike) Stevens 

Mike Stevens was born and grew up in Brooklyn, New York where his family was actively involved in Jewish cultural, educational and religious life. He received his M.A. in Music Composition from Hunter College of the City of New York and taught music in New York and Virginia. Mike has also taught courses in philosophy, the history of music, art and literature, and the Bible.

Mike was ordained as a rabbi at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1976. He served congregations in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana and Canada. 

Mike lives with his wife Judy in Holly Springs, North Carolina. Now retired from the congregational rabbinate, Mike continues to write liturgical music, plays the piano at Shabbat services, and has composed a number of marches and other works for concert band and orchestra. Together with his wife, Judy, a child of Holocaust survivors, Mike is happy to discuss Judaism and the history of the Holocaust with students and adults. Please contact Mike to arrange a presentation at

​Maureen Wertheim

Maureen Wertheim is the daughter of Holocaust survivors. Maureen will share her mother’s miraculous journey of survival that began at the age of 7, immediately after Kristallnacht. It ended 7 years later at age 14, when she was reunited with some of her family. Maureen includes artifacts in her presentation including her mother’s war time clothing, photographs and letters. Maureen is committed to sharing her mother’s story. She believes that educating people about the Holocaust will encourage dialogue and help prevent hatred and discrimination.

Maureen will tailor her talk to various age groups. She can be reached at

Tom Wolf

Tom Wolf is the son and grandson of Jewish refugees who escaped Nazi persecution by immigrating to Cincinnati, Ohio in 1938. Tom shares his family’s story of life in Germany prior to the outbreak of WWII, their struggles to obtain sponsorship and visas to leave Europe before immigration was halted, and their integration into American life. 

Tom includes the fascinating story of his uncle, who after immigrating to the United States, joined the Army and returned to Europe as a “Ritchie Boy”. The Ritchie Boys were a special military intelligence unit who trained at the secret Camp Ritchie facility in Maryland. Most of the them were German speaking immigrants who had fled Nazi persecution  and were determined to fight against the Nazis. His unit liberated the Buchenwald concentration camp. 

Tom, a retired clinical psychologist, is strongly motivated to share his story because of his firm belief in our responsibility to take action to combat anti Semitism, racism and discrimination. He speaks to students and community groups. Contact Tom to arrange a speaking engagement

John Wurzelmann

​John Wurzelmann is a physician who lives in Chapel Hill. His parents were among the 5%–10% of Polish Jews who survived WW II. His mother, Sarah, was born in 1930 in the Polish shtetl of Nowogrodek. After the Soviet invasion in 1939, she was deported to Achinsk, Siberia, where she spent the duration of the war. She was fortunate in that most of the 6500 Jews of Nowogrodek were murdered by the Nazis, between June and December of 1941.  John’s father, Ludwig, was born in Warsaw, Poland in 1926. During the war, he worked as a slave laborer in Adampol, Poland. He escaped to the nearby Skoridnica forest in 1942 and fought the Nazis as a member of a Jewish partisan group led by Yechiel Grinspan. After “liberation” in 1944, he was impressed into the Red Army and forced to serve in the notorious Shtrafnoy Battalion.  He escaped, hiding in equipment transport trains over several weeks, eventually returning to the town of Wlodowa, where he learned that his family had perished in the extermination factory of Sobibor.  Facing continued violence against Jews in post-war Poland, he fled to occupied Germany, where he spent 2 years in a Displaced Persons Camp before eventually emigrating to Israel, then Canada, and the United States, where at last he found peace.

John has written and published several stories about his parents’ survival. He has spoken before groups, large and small, in his roles as pharmaceutical industry professional and adjunct faculty at the University of North Carolina. John’s presentation is best suited for university students and adults. Please contact John directly to discuss a speaking engagement at

​2Gs and 3Gs Needed!

The Holocaust Speakers Bureau (a component of the Center for Holocaust, Genocide and Human Rights Education of NC, Inc.) seeks children and grandchildren of Holocaust survivors and concentration camp liberators (known as 2Gs and 3Gs) who would be willing to visit schools and organizations.Our aging speakers are finding it increasingly more difficult to travel and speak. We hope to expand our speaking network to include 2Gs and 3Gs.

Please contact Sharon Halperin at 919-933-9089 or if you are interested or would like more information.