Survivors’ tales

Survivors’ tales

It was extremely gratifying to see the story about the Stevens family (“Survivor’s son’s search leads to global reunion,” Dec. 15.). It was at one of our “Lunch and Learn” programs that we first heard Marlene speak of the sister and brother who were left behind. The train she and the rest of the family were on, heading from one Soviet labor camp to another, suddenly left without them. It was a poignant story of a devoted family torn apart by random and unforeseeable circumstances; of a young Jewish girl compelled to make her life in Uzbekistan; of her Muslim children; and of a member of the Second Generation’s heroic efforts to help his mother gain closure by tracing her siblings who had vanished. So many Holocaust survivors never gain closure in regards to her family, but Elaine Durbach’s article reports that one of Marlene’s nieces will soon visit her. How perfect to learn of this in this season of miracles!

In the same issue is Robert Wiener’s excellent story of another member of the Second Generation (“Survivors’ child remembers Salonika’s lost Jewish glory”). Unlike Robert Stevens’s, whose family came from eastern Europe, Mathilde Beneviste was born soon after the Holocaust to a family in Salonika, Greece. The Nazis destroyed nearly the entire Jewish population of that city. Dr. Beneviste’s family was one of the few to survive. She related the fascinating history of that community, one that goes back thousands of years, and described the small community of Jews that still remains there.

The Holocaust Council of MetroWest owes a great debt to its board members who coordinate and facilitate the rescue and preservation of these testimonies: Robin Syssler, of Short Hills, is the coordinator the monthly “Lunch ‘n Learn” program. Fred Heyman, of Morristown, videotapes the sessions, and Robert Flarety, of Mine Hill, converts the videotapes into DVDs. A copy of the DVD is presented to the speaker and we keep a copy for our archives. This ensures that these important stories, some of which sound almost miraculous, will not be lost. The families of survivors (and their children) will be able to view and hear the story related (sometimes for the first time as so many survivors and other eyewitnesses to the Holocaust have never shared their stories. Future historians who want to do research in our archives will also be able to access those testimonies.

Barbara Wind
Holocaust Council of MetroWest

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