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Survivors aim to ‘expand understanding’ through talks at Morris Museum
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Survivors aim to ‘expand understanding’ through talks at Morris Museum

For four days in May, the Morris Museum will present survivors of the Nazi Holocaust to address area students and members of the general public in order to “expand the compassion and understanding for all who suffered.”

Eight survivors in all will appear, two at a time, at the Morris Township museum on Tuesday and Wednesday, May 8 and 9, and on Wednesday and Thursday, May 16 and 17. The general public is welcome on May 8 and 16; student groups may attend any of the four programs.

The May 8 program will feature Ruth Ravina, a Montclair resident who was saved by rescuers after she was interned in three concentration camps. Joining her will be Vera Chapman, who lives in Verona. As a baby, Chapman was brought from Vienna to safety in Palestine.

Hungarian-born Joe Ungerleider of Rockaway will describe how he survived the brutalities of Auschwitz on May 9. Hanna Kesselman of Springfield will discuss her outlasting the Nazi era with the assistance of the French-Jewish humanitarian agency OSE, and by hiding in the care of French-Christian families and in a Catholic convent.  

On May 16, Bob Max, an American World War II veteran who now lives in Summit, will tell the harrowing story of his brutal captivity as a slave laborer for the Nazis after he was captured during the Battle of the Bulge. With him will be Michael Zeiger of Randolph, whose family fled Ukraine, then went to Poland, Czechoslovakia, Austria, and finally to a displaced persons’ camp in Germany.

The final day will feature Stella Geller of West Orange, who survived the Nazis as a teenager in France, and Berlin-born Fred Heyman of Morristown, a storyteller and Holocaust consultant who will describe his escape to the United States after Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass, in November 1938. 

Amiet Goldman, the museum’s manager of marketing and public relations, told NJJN, “Every time you hear one of these stories it makes a strong impression. You can watch ‘Schindler’s List,’ but I don’t think it’s the same thing.” Hearing directly from survivors “goes beyond the Holocaust, so that people will understand that it cannot happen again.”

The museum’s director of education, Kathy Francis, said, “People walk into the program thinking they know the story of the Holocaust, but after hearing these first-hand accounts, our compassion and understanding for all who suffered is expanded, and all who listen are forever changed.” 

The $8 admission fee will help cover costs to the museum and the Holocaust Council of Greater MetroWest NJ, which coordinated the speakers.

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