SECOND GENERATION OF THE HOLOCAUST In 2005 I showed a series called Holocaust Survivors and Liberators at the 6oth anniversary of the Liberation of the Holocaust from German Concentration Camps. I had had an epiphany while doing the project, when I learned that United States Military pillaged a train that was left with all the wealth and goodies that had been gathered by the Nazis from the round up of the Hungarian Jews who were sent to the concentration camps towards the end of the WWII. The survivors fought for financial retribution from the United States Government and won in about 2005. It made me think of The Ten Commandments especially “Though shall Not Steal”. Here the United States stole and those survivors fought to remind us of that God Given Law. Thus I thought that the Jews were the first to give the World through Moses the Law of Ethics. Why did these people survive such a massive Holocaust? I believe that those that survived are of the Jewish Faith and they are here to remind us of Ethics. Our world since those times and in my lifetime has changed. We are losing our sense of ethics of Do unto others as you would have others do unto you. [Matthew 7:12]
ELIZABETH STUX My story is a difficult one because I was born to two Holocaust Survivors. I have always lived with my mother’s memories and have also had my bouts of survivor’s guilt. The human will can be broken and controlled through severe and humiliating mistreatment. My mother’s spirit never broke. Daily life in our home in Melbourne, Australia was filled with ghosts and my mother conjured up a world of starvation and death. Every piece of food was to be eaten because my mother no longer saw a little girl in front of her but rows of emaciated hollow-eyed children that looked like me. Among all the horrific images, the killing of children had the hardest impact on me. The world as I knew it had been colored by my mother’s description of her experiences. My mother told me so many tales that after many years I realized that we are born into our mother’s emotions, and within these parameters we are raised.
HELEN FRIEDMAN Helen Friedman’s parents fled Poland to Russia during the thirties. Her father left at age 18 to flee the Polish Army but he regretted leaving behind his youngest brother who begged to go with him, and he ended up perishing in the Holocaust. Helen saw her father cry when he told her of this tragedy. Her father survived in a work camp as a shoemaker. Her parents met in Russia and returned to Poland then Germany where I was born before going onto Israel . They came to America in 1951 and settled in Brooklyn . Her father worked seven days a week for 25 years and her mother worked in a bakery. They wanted their children to grow up without problems and sacrificed for their education. She and her brother grew up in a neighborhood where people were of the holocaust so the backgrounds were similar and they did not see themselves as different. She became a sculptor but made a living in real estate and banking. She was married to a man who was from a family of displace persons from Bergen Belsen. She lived in North Dakota before coming to Florida where she aligned herself with Next Generation group. She now has a relationship with a Canadian philanthropist who gives injured Israeli soldiers respite. She lives part time in Montreal and part time in Florida. Her parents talked to her about their experiences but many of the specifics, such as times, exact location had been forgotten. They were wonderful parents and they gave all of themselves. As part of the Next Generation group her parents would be proud that she has aligned herself with this group which is so passionate about telling the story of anti discrimination.
HENRY WILNER: He is 90. He was born in Debica, Poland. At age 16 He and his brother were pushed off the train in which their family perished by their mother to the Death Camp Beldec. He lived as a Pole and protected his brother. He ran to a family protecting Jews and they were given false papers. That woman was honored later in Israel as “Righteous Jew”. He worked in the Polish Underground serving as a Polish fireman always hiding his brother. After the war they were liberated to Paris and his brother settled there marrying a French woman. In 1951 he spoke French and had married with children; they came to US. French speaking led him to Import Export in French Africa so he was away much of the time.
JEANETTE MALCA: Jeanette’s mother, Ella Messing, was a survivor of Auschwitz. Jeanette read to me her eulogy. Her mother had been a teacher in Poland. The Nazis offered to take the best and brightest children and teachers in her town and to send them to freedom in another country in exchange for German prisoners-of-war. Ella was one of the teachers chosen. She accompanied the children, thinking that the children were on the train for survival but instead, the train arrived at Auschwitz and the children were sent directly to the gas chambers. As Ella would say, “We saw the smoke and knew that it was our children burning.” Ella escaped from Auschwitz during the Death March. When the Russians came in after the camps were liberated, Ella called out to them in several languages. She was so relieved to see them after the Nazis had been defeated. The Russians thought she was a spy since she knew so many languages. A firing squad stood her up, ready to shoot her, until one of the soldiers understood and called off the guns. Jeanette’s parents moved to France after the war. They became directors of an orphanage sponsored by HIAS. They cared for and taught orphan children and subsequently escorted them to Israel to settle them in Kibbutzim and in Youth Aliyah villages. From France, Jeanette, her sister and parents moved to the US. Her parents worked hard in a neighborhood grocery store and in raising their family. Jeanette’s mother, Ella, also devoted herself to helping Israel. She became a leader in many local Jewish organizations. Among her many accomplishments, she set up a scholarship program to send American children to Israel and she was chairman of the Women’s Division of UJA in her town. Ella’s destiny was to help and save others. She lived and often quoted the famous saying, “If you save one life, it is as though you have saved the entire world.” She lived the affirmation of LIFE In Jeanette’s early years, her mother did not speak about her experiences. Jeanette learned of her mother’s bravery and heroism while visiting in Israel with her mother’s friend who had survived Auschwitz with Ella. Jeanette later told her mother what she had learned and her mother then began to talk of her experience. Jeanette learned about compassion from her mother and devoted her career to working with at-risk youth, helping them get job-training and jobs and turning their lives around. We met in her home, which was a happy place, because her grandchildren were staying with her
NANCY DERSHAW Nancy is the Founder and President of NEXT GENERATIONS, a 501(c) (3) not for profit organization of children, grandchildren of Holocaust survivors and all those who are committed to educate future generations by preserving the memories of the past, carrying forward the message into the future by keeping our parents voices alive. When you lose a parent there is tremendous grief and anguish. However, when you lose a parent who was also a survivor of the Holocaust there are many different layers of feelings. As the President of NEXT GENERATIONS, I am in direct contact with many children of holocaust survivors whose parents have passed away. We feel not only did we lose a parent, but the magnitude of loss and pain is that much greater due to the weight of our parents’ past For many, our responsibilities and our appreciation of our families were different than our peers. We often acted as a parent might Our love for our parents included keeping them safe and happy and not causing them grief. Taking away any hardships — making sure that ultimately they were as happy as they could be AND there were so many joyous moments of happiness. For many of us, as the “children,” we were instilled with such a tremendous triumph in being alive and therefore we felt intense gratitude towards our parents for anything that they gave us. First, we are fortunate TO BE HEREI Our parents gave us strength and resilience always striving for a better life. We are the witnesses to the eyewitness and have a moral responsibility to take the lessons of the Holocaust to insure that future generations will learn from the lessons of the past and stand up to any form of social injustice in the future to say NEVER AGAIN!
PAULA STEVENS: I met Paula through the Museum of Art Fort Lauderdale. She is co-chair of the Membership Development committee, as well as a fund raiser for NEXT GENERATIONS. Passionate in her efforts, she supports both entities. Both of her parents were Holocaust survivors who lost their immediate and extended families. After liberation, they made their way across allied lines to Munich, Germany where Paula was born. The family had to wait two and half years for the US to grant the family visas. Nothing was ever discussed or revealed to Paula as a child regarding her parent’s horrifying experiences and personal losses. She never understood why she didn’t have grandparents, aunts or uncles. The death of her mother at the early age of 11 yrs., forced her to mature early and become independent. Being connected with other Second generation survivors has given Paula the opportunity to engage in meaning dialogue as well as establishing an unspoken bond. Her having three children was the greatest gift to her parents who have produced six grandchildren. “I am here for a reason and I will never forget. My departed family will live on through my children and their children”
PHIL WILNER, M.D.: Wilner is a psychiatrist at NY/Presbyterian Hospital. He is the son of Holocaust Survivors. His father is living at age 90 and since his mother died he has become closer and more proud of his optimistic and creative personality.His father was born in Debica, Poland. At age 16 He and his brother were pushed off the train in which their family perished to the Death Camp Beldec by their mother. His father lived as a Pole and protected his brother. He ran to a family protecting Jews and they were given false papers. That woman was honored later in Israel as “Righteous Jew”. He worked in the Polish Underground serving as a Polish fireman always hiding his brother. After the war they were liberated to Paris and his brother settled there marrying a French woman. In 1951 his father spoke French and had married with children they came to US. French speaking led him to Import Export in French Africa so he was away much of the time. Phil was raised by his mother who in later years developed Parkinsonism and died 5 years ago. His father was always brave and loving and positive. His mother was born in Jaslo, Poland and transported to Siberia and talked of the extreme survival needed because of the environment. They were however not persecuted. She went to Russian Schools but family was together and later after war they were in DP camps together. They came to the States. The families were together with other Holocaust survivors in the Bronx, so Phil grew up in that environment and he always felt not part of the negative overlay of the survivor families. He always wanted joy in his life and he attributes this to the inheritance of his father’s optimistic viewpoint which led him into Psychiatry since he was always the listener of bad stories, He states an “eavesdropper”. His parents wished him to understand Judaism despite that they were nonobservant so Phil went to the Yeshiva and Ramaz and he has become an observant modern Jew. His children, too, have gone to Ramaz. He requested that I also paint his father since it would honor him.
RON STUX: Ron is the husband of Elizabeth Stux. His future mother and father lived in Vienna where his father worked in the clothing business. In 1938 after they married, his father remained in a cellar because of the danger to Jews at that time. They decided to leave for Shanghai because it was still possible to go there. After the war they learned that living in the Shanghai ghetto was very different from the other ghettos of Eastern Europe because they were free to roam the city and conduct business. Ron’s father worked for a Swiss import and export company until the end of the War after which he worked as a manager of a PX for the US Army that occupied Shanghai. Like everyone else they wanted entry into the US but could not so they settled in Melbourne, Australia. Ron and his family left for Melbourne, Australia when he was three so he remembers very little about that time but he does remember his Ama. In Melbourne, he grew up in a middle class neighborhood with other survivor of the Holocaust. He was a good student and became a research chemist. He met Elizabeth and they married. Elizabeth’s mother moved in with them and insisted on them moving to the US and they did. He found work with a company in the Boston area that made chemical instruments. He worked with that company for 25 years followed by another five years with a software company after which they retired to South Florida. He believes in and is profoundly proud of his Jewish Heritage and it to go onto Perpetuity.
ROSITTA EHRLICH KENIGSBERG Our parents’ legacy is not about death and despair, but about life and life reborn. Despite their tragic and painful past, they once again dared to sing, dared to dance, dared to dream, dared to shed tears of happiness and joy, and they even dared to start new families in new homes they created. Their wondrous story of survival is a testament of their inner strength, heroic defiance, and remarkable courage and conviction. Rositta Ehrlich Kenigsberg is the daughter of Holocaust survivor Henry Ehrlich, who was born in Miedzyrzec, Poland. When the Nazis came, he was in the ghetto and then was interned in several concentration camps, including Majdanek. He was transferred to Starachowice, the largest ammunitions factory in Poland. From there he was sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau and then to Buna. In January 1945, he was on a death march and ended up in Dora-Mittelbau where V-2 rockets were made. Finally, he was liberated in Mauthausen in May 1945; After liberation, he married, and his daughter Rositta was born in a displaced persons camp in Austria. The family then immigrated to Montreal, Canada, in 1951. Because of the political situation, the family left Montreal and moved to South Florida in 1979. Currently, Rositta serves as the Executive Vice President of the Holocaust Documentation and Education Center, Inc., the organization she has been a part of in various capacities for more than twenty-four years. She always has been inspired by her father’s words: “As long as there is someone to tell the story, there is life. And as long as there is someone to listen, there is hope.”
TERRI GOLDEN: I was born in Bergen Belsen which after the Nazi defeat became a displaced persons camp. I believe that children of Holocaust survivors carry the pain of their parents who greatly suffered under the Nazi regime. My parents lost most of their family in the death camps. We arrived in Canada with no family, no money and could not speak English. My parents had to struggle to earn a living in a foreign country, where even the Canadian Jews were not all that receptive to the refugees. As a child of survivors, I always felt different. I was not a carefree child for I always worried about my parents. I just wanted them to be happy and therefore I needed to obey them and not cause them and grief. My Mom who is nearing her 951h birthday still screams in her sleep and relives the horrors of the Holocaust. And I still wish I could see her happy. As many children of survivors I have established a successful life for myself. I am proud to say that I am active in Next Generations of Holocaust Survivors as treasurer, an organization involved in helping elderly survivors in need and educating future generations in the fight against prejudice, bigotry and bullying.
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