By: Maggie Wilson, May 11, 2016
SEATTLE —Anne Frank lived in hiding, in the annex of an Amsterdam apartment, during Nazi occupation when she was a child.
“As long as this exists,” she wrote of the sun, blue sky and chestnut tree she would gaze at from the window, “how can I be sad?”
The white horse chestnut tree, weakened by disease, succumbed to a 2010 windstorm in the Netherlands. It was over 170 years old, according to The Sapling Project.
The Anne Frank House, with permission from the tree's owner, gathered chestnuts from the dying tree and germinated them, intending to donate resultant saplings.
An excerpt of a 1968 speech by Anne’s father, Otto Frank, is hosted on the Sapling Project’s site.
“How could I have known,” he asks, “how much it meant to Anne to see a patch of blue sky, to observe the seagulls as they flew, and how important the chestnut tree was for her, when I think that she never showed any interest in nature.”
A video uploaded by the Anne Frank House in 2009 shows views of the chestnut tree. Watch it here.
One of its saplings was planted in January in Seattle in Frank’s honor.
The Holocaust Center for Humanity in Belltown was one of 11 sites in the country selected to receive a sapling from the historic tree.
Ilana Cone Kennedy with the center said they were granted the chestnut sapling in 2009. The trees came from Amsterdam and required three years in quarantine in a special nursery.
“The little tree that came to Seattle was too small to plant in a public park,” Kennedy said. “Seattle Parks and Recreation has been nursing the tree in a greenhouse since 2013.”
The sapling was dedicated at Seattle Center’s Peace Garden. The Peace Garden is near the base of the Space Needle. The garden was planted in 1996.
A beloved feature of the garden is a Ceanothus impressus “Puget Blue,” which is covered with tiny blue flowers in early summer.
Recently, Seattle’s new Holocaust Center for Humanity welcomed a traveling exhibit honoring the memory of Anne Frank. One woman, Agi Day, reflected in Seattle this spring to KIRO 7 on the personal importance the Anne Frank display held for her.
“Just being in the Holocaust Center is reminiscent of many things for me,” said Day. “And Anne Frank, specifically, because I’ve been there in Amsterdam. And I, too, was a hidden child. Different story. But, again, a hidden child. … My mother, my sister, my grandmother were hidden in a convent, dressed as nuns. ... I was too young to be in the convent. So I was hidden with a Catholic family, a couple [with] no children. And they pretended I was a cousin from the countryside."
Kennedy, with the Holocaust Center for Humanity, said in the wake of a Seattle shooting at the Jewish Federation in 2006, people “from all walks of life” came together to show their support for the Jewish community and those impacted by the shooting.
In the shooting at Seattle's Jewish Federation building, six women were shot. One of them was killed.
Kennedy was working in the building that day -- and recalls being “incredibly moved by the outpouring of support.”
“In our application for the sapling,” Kennedy said, “we mentioned that this tree was not only one of hope and remembrance, but, in the spirit of Anne Frank, should serve as a reminder of what we can do when we put our differences aside and stand together.”
Of the Anne Frank exhibit in Seattle, Kennedy says every day people come to visit the display and are filled with their own questions and stories. The center has hosted thousands of students.
At the end of their tour, visitors are invited to leave comments on paper leaves and place them on a tree painted on the wall.
“The comments are moving and now cover the whole wall," Kennedy said. "One of them reads simply, 'We are all Anne Frank.' And another, 'I could invite the lonely kid that sits near us at lunch to come hang out with me and my friends.'"
Photographer Meryl Alcabes captured beautiful images from the sapling dedication ceremony. Click here to see them.
“Anne Frank, A History for Today,” about the Dutch teenager whose diary has become a symbol of Holocaust tragedy and of hope, has special meaning for writer and college student Nicole Einbinder.
I will never forget listening to Anne Frank’s childhood friend describe the moment she threw food over the fence at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Nazi Germany.
And Anne told her friend that she was hungry.
As my group — UW students participating in a 10-day trip to Israel through Birthright Israel in the summer of 2014 — listened attentively in one of the auditoriums at Yad Vashem, the official memorial to the Holocaust in Jerusalem, the room was silent.
Goslar secretly collected food and clothes to throw to her friend in the dead of night. They met at the fence and Goslar threw the package into the air, into the unknown. On the other side, another prisoner, also desperate for food, grabbed it from the girl too weak to put up a fight.
At the age of 15, Anne Frank died of typhus in the camp, weeks before its liberation in 1945.
The pain in Goslar’s voice, decades after the Holocaust, will never leave me. The devastation, the looming question: “What if Anne had got the package?”
Posted on a wall of the “Anne Frank: A History for Today” exhibit in Seattle’s Holocaust Center for Humanity is a quote from Goslar: “It wasn’t the same Anne. She was a broken girl. It was terrible. She immediately began to cry, and she told me: ‘I don’t have any parents anymore.’ I always think, if Anne had known that her father was still alive, she might have had more strength to survive.”
On display until May 25, the traveling exhibit, developed by the Anne Frank House and sponsored by the Anne Frank Center USA, is a glimpse into the life of a girl considered to be a universal figure of the Holocaust, according to Ilana Cone Kennedy, education director at Seattle’s Holocaust Center.
“People are so connected to her because we can all relate to her in a way,” Kennedy explained. “She’s a very average teenager that we all get, and she’s totally innocent. She’s done nothing to deserve where she is, and she doesn’t survive.
“That’s the really horrible tragedy of it all,” she said.
The exhibit includes a timeline of Anne’s personal story juxtaposed with general Holocaust history, personal photographs of the family, a replica of her acclaimed diary, and a model of the attic and house where she hid for two years from the Nazis.
As I toured the exhibit on a rainy Seattle afternoon, it was difficult not to feel connected. I am Jewish; my grandfather’s cousin Mordecai Anielewicz was the leader of the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, an act of Jewish resistance against Nazi efforts to transport the residents of the ghetto to the Treblinka extermination camp in occupied Poland.
But, I am also lucky. I was born in a time and place where I can express my faith freely and proudly. Anne, a normal girl who grew up in Amsterdam, who took photos with her family and loved to ice-skate and laugh and write, was not as fortunate.
“How resilient this young girl was and how she was able to create joy in her daily life and imagine a future,” said Karen Chachkes, the center’s strategic director, as we toured the exhibition. “She believed in life.”
Chachkes said that of the more than 100,000 Jews living in Holland during the Nazi regime, only about 5,000 survived.
The exhibit’s primary purpose is to educate the community, while reminding people that we all can make a difference in the world, Kennedy said. Around 60 school groups from across the state will be touring the center over the next couple of months.
“I think there is still so much hate in the world, I think there is still so much to learn, and I think so much has happened since the Holocaust in order to try to make these things not happen again,” Kennedy said. “And yet, when I see what’s going on in the world and people murdering each other for racist, extremist ideals so senselessly, you have to wonder: How can we stop this? What can we do so that people see each other as human beings?”
The Holocaust has so many names. There is Anne and her sister Margot and Mordecai and an infinite number of people who all had stories, who all had ears and eyes and hopes and dreams. In one quote on the timeline, Anne said that her dream was to be a journalist, and later a famous writer.
As an intern at The Seattle Times, I can definitely relate.
While the exhibit embodies humanity’s worst, it also exposes another truth: Margot laughing with a group of friends, Anne staring into the camera at school, a portrait of the family in their best attire.
They were more than a statistic, more than victims of the Holocaust.
“I was really surprised at how much I didn’t know and how moved I was by the way the exhibit is presented,” Kennedy said, pausing to add, “how humanizing it is.”
Listen to the Kiro Radio segment by clicking here.
In the museum, a large, black and white picture displays elementary-age students, all with Jewish star patches sewn into their sweaters and coats.Up front sits Pete Metzelaar, about 6 years old at the time. Now 80, he's a Seattleite and Holocaust survivor who travels around the country telling his story.
"That regime, state-sponsored, wanted to eradicate every person of the Jewish faith on Earth," Metzelaar said.
"Everybody is different," he said, about how people will react to the new museum in Seattle.
Maybe they'll see the child's leather shoe, on loan from the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum in Poland, and really understand what happened. That "they were gassed. They were … burned in the crematorium," Metzelaar said.
Metzelaar believes teaching it both in the museum and in schools can help people understand tolerance "to make kids aware what bullying will do to the worst extent," he said.
"Six million people got annihilated, among which were 1.5 million kids 10 years and younger. I mean it could have been … me." Those are the numbers of Jewish victims but the Nazis targeted more, including people who were mentally ill, gay or lesbian, and any minority who didn't fit into the Aryan race.
Metzelaar survived because a Dutch couple risked their lives to house him and his mother. "We just lived in the farmhouse, but when the Germans came to raid the farm we crawled underneath some floor boards," he said."They were walking a foot and a half over my head. It would have taken one sneeze, one cough, one hiccup, and it would have been all over.
And even that got to be too dangerous."The farmer built them a cave in a small forest next to the farm "… and my mom and I hid in that like a couple of sardines," Metzelaar said.
And this was after he and his mother had already been separated from their entire family, who all died at Auschwitz.Those raids happened once or twice a week and Metzelaar was only 8 years old."We could hear them ransacking the farm — it was close by. That was the scary part … 'Are they gonna come get me?' … I was aware that somebody wants to kill me."
Metzelaar is one of many Seattle-area survivors profiled in the exhibit, and that focus on local stories is what sets this Holocaust museum apart.
Ilana Cone Kennedy, Seattle-based Holocaust Center for Humanity's Director of Education, wants young students and adult visitors to leave thinking about injustices that are happening right now."Our actions make a difference … what we do, even the little things — good or bad — have a ripple effect. They matter," she said."The Holocaust was a perfect storm of things happening and it didn't have to be that way. It could have changed, had people done different things, like stood up … and there were people who did. There just weren't enough of them."
Metzelaar was able to go to the Netherlands and meet the children of the couple who saved him."I sat next to the daughter and I asked her, ‘What made your parents do what they did?' Her straight answer was: they felt it was the right thing to do," Metzelaar said.
The museum opens in Belltown on Sunday and after that will be open twice a week. Visitors are asked to make reservations online at HolocaustCenterSeattle.org.
Stroum Center for Jewish Studies, University of Washington
March 28, 2016 | By Katja Schatte |
See full article
Seattle’s recently inaugurated Holocaust Center for Humanity (HCH) demonstrates that teaching a bigger lesson does not have to come at the expense of representing a particular history. With its focus on the stories of local survivors, the center not only bridges the gap between the particular and the universal, it also demonstrates that the respect for, not the erasure of, particularity lies at the root of solidarity.
The Holocaust Center for Humanity’s own history is just as important as the history it represents. It leaves no doubt about how central the role of Holocaust memory and the fight against antisemitism are to its mission. Twenty-six years ago, a group of local survivors founded the center’s precursor, the Speakers’ Bureau, to tell their stories at local schools and universities in response to spreading Holocaust denial. Until this day, the Speakers’ Bureau and the recording of oral histories are vital parts of the Holocaust Center’s work.
However, in the face of diminishing numbers of survivors, the Center has come up with new ways to keep the memory of the Holocaust alive. But instead of giving in to what Professor Walter Reich calls “the itch to universalize,” the HCH continues to focus on the stories of Jewish survivors throughout its recently inaugurated exhibit. And instead of forcing the exhibit to choose between teaching about Jewish suffering during the Holocaust and teaching bigger lessons, the survivors’ stories accomplish both at the same time.
As Dee Simon, the Center’s Executive Director, summarizes it: “We learned that students learn best from stories. People learn best from stories. And the richest thing we have is the stories of survivors. That is what makes our museum unique: Holocaust stories from people who survived and came to live here.” As a result, the artifacts on display in the museum are also always “a symbol of someone’s story.”
The Center’s commitment to both preserving these artifacts and making them accessible becomes apparent in its cutting-edge archival infrastructure. After two major institutions, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) in Washington D.C. and the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust, Seattle’s HCH is only the third institution in the United States to meet the strict preservation standards of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Collection in Oświęcim, Poland and thus has obtained artifacts from that collection.
Just as important as the preservation and display of the artifacts is the content of the stories the museum tells with them. As Dee Simon explains, specific curatorial decisions ensure that human experiences of the Holocaust, rather than sanitized historical timelines, structure visitors’ experiences of the exhibit. With the exception of a few images from the USHMM, all objects in the HCH exhibit tell the stories of local survivors. Rather than presenting history from the perspective of informed hindsight, the exhibit guides visitors through the lived experiences of identification, exclusion, the turning point of Kristallnacht, flight and rescue, and the mass murder of European Jews in the ghettos and concentration and extermination camps across Europe. Survival, too, is presented as part of the narrative. Ultimately, the exhibit succeeds in answering the oft-asked question “But why did no one see it coming?” by helping visitors understand how members of the European Jewish community experienced history as it was happening. READ MORE
Thanks, Seattle Met!
The Holocaust Center's Director of Education, Ilana Cone Kennedy, speaks with Margaret Larsen from King 5 New Day Northwest about the Holocaust Center's exhibit on Anne Frank and the planting of the Anne Frank tree sapling in Seattle.
Click here to see the article and video on the New Day Northwest website.
King 5 reported from the Holocaust Center on Thursday, October 15.
SEATTLE -- It's the personal items that catch the eye - A leather shoe, a pair of eyeglasses, a yellow star patch stamped "Jude."
These are just some of the artifacts on display at the Holocaust Center for Humanity museum, which will open Sunday October 18 in Seattle.
The center has been supporting teachers with Holocaust education materials since 1989, but this is the first space dedicated to allowing students and the public to view and interact with historical artifacts, traveling exhibits and to hear from speakers.
Seventy-nine-year-old Peter Metzelaar is one of those speakers. His family perished in Auschwitz. He and his mother survived, sheltered by a Christian farmer's family.
Metzelaar eventually met the daughter of the family that rescued him.
"I asked the daughter, 'Why did your parents do this? At the risk of not only themselves but their entire family?' And her one answer was, 'They felt it was the right thing to do,'" said Metzelaar.
He tells students to reject bullying and practice tolerance so that the Holocaust never happens to anyone again.
The Holocaust Center for Humanity opens to the public Sunday Oct. 18. Hours are 10am-4pm. Reservations required. For information, go to www. holocaustcenterseattle.org.
Watch the segment here
By Jennifer Wing. LISTEN
An exhibit about the life of Anne Frank is currently on view at the Holocaust Center for Humanity in Seattle. It’s called, "Anne Frank: A History For Today." When it closes at the end of May, two strong connections to Anne Frank will remain in Seattle.
If you go to the exhibit, you will see large panels, about seven feet tall, lining the walls.They are split in half. The top has photos and text that chronicle the rise of Adolf Hitler, the Nazi Party and the horrors of the Holocaust. The lower half of the panels is all about Anne Frank and her family.
The Frank timeline begins with joyful pictures of weddings, the smiling faces of a young Anne and her sister Margot — happy times. Ilana Cone Kennedy is the center’s education director.
“I like that, because I feel like you kind of need to see where people are before the Holocaust starts in order to understand how their lives change once the world started changing,” said Cone Kennedy.
The exhibit shows how Otto Frank, Anne’s father, made the shrewd decision to leave Germany right away and move to the Netherlands.
“And so the Netherlands didn't come into the war until many years later and so the juxtaposition of the Holocaust history and what’s going on in the Netherlands is really interesting because you see pictures of Anne and Margot on the beach while other people are being deported in other countries.” READ MORE | LISTEN
Crosscut Magazine's Matt Spaw reports:
A suitcase, with its mundane contents laid out, is on display at the Pacific Northwest's first Holocaust museum: the shoes of a family, a comb, eyeglasses...
“I know!” I said. “To think such a good writer only had the chance to write this book, and to die like that.”
“Exactly,” she replied.
This weekend I plan on taking both of my daughters to see the traveling exhibit Anne Frank: A History for Today at the Henry and Sandra Friedman Holocaust Center for Humanity in downtown Seattle. On display through May 18, 2016, this exhibit presents a history of the Holocaust through Anne’s life story. (It was developed by the Anne Frank House and is sponsored in North America by The Anne Frank Center USA.
“Even if you know her story, it personalizes her and gives the situational context as she was writing her diary,” says Ilana Cone Kennedy, the center’s director of education.
Frank's story is told timeline style. Each panel is split in half: the top tells Holocaust history while the bottom shows what was happening with the Frank family at that same time.
This is just a fabulous exhibit. I have to tell you, we had so many people come through on our first day,” says Kennedy. “Anne Frank is a universal human figure of this very terrible time period who suffered for no good reason. We’ve made her larger than life, but really she’s just a regular kid, a 13-year-old girl who’s thoughtful and a little annoying and she doesn’t like her mom.”
Although the museum's core exhibit is not displayed while the Anne Frank exhibit is up (read a review here), some artifacts from local survivors are still on display. While the center officially recommends the Anne Frank exhibit for fifth graders and up, Kennedy has seen parents show certain pieces of the exhibit to second and third graders and believes parents can judge if their children are ready to learn some of this story.
“Ultimately, we are learning to respect our differences, how we need to help each other and that our own individual choices matter. We don’t live in our own bubble. We have to extend a hand to each other and speak out when we see intolerance,” says Kennedy.
When you visit, the center’s staff are on hand to give parents and children the contextual context needed to understand Holocaust history. Kennedy encourages parents to ask for resources. GO TO ARTICLE
A Day of Reflection on Holocaust at Veterans Museum
By Justyna Tomtas |
Local high school students met at the Veterans Memorial Museum in Chehalis Tuesday to learn about painful and tragic events in an effort to ensure that history would not repeat itself.
The day marked the 70th anniversary of the liberation of one of the most notorious death camps in Europe, Auschwitz-Birkenau. According to Matthew Elrich, of the Holocaust Center for Humanity in Seattle, 1.1 million people went through the death camp’s gates, never to return again.
“We have to constantly keep in front of us what went on during that time so we as students and adults do everything in our power to not allow that to happen ever again,” Robert Sande, a social studies teacher at W.F. West High School, said.
Elrich gave a presentation on his mother’s life and the effects the dark period of history had on his family. She survived the Holocaust and was among those saved on liberation day.
His mother, Felicia Lewkowicz, died six years ago from cancer, but her story was told vividly, marking the trials and tribulations she experienced during her time in Europe. “It’s important to understand the greater lessons of the Holocaust, why we use a capital ‘H’ for this one,” Elrich told the students.
Lewkowicz was born in Krakow, Poland, in June of 1924 and lived a normal life until the Nazis
came to power and decided Jews, among others, were an inferior race. The ethnic cleansing, which later took place, attempted to rid the world of unwanted ethnic and religious groups.
After leaving the Krakow ghetto, Lewkowicz found work elsewhere until the day she was arrested as a political prisoner and taken to Auschwitz in August of 1944. Continue Reading
Posted: Thursday, January 29, 2015
IN THE NEWS!
The nation’s newest Holocaust museum, and the first in Washington state, is about to be unveiled in downtown Seattle. Its founders hope it will connect lessons from history with present-day issues.
The people behind the Holocaust Center for Humanity have been working in Washington classrooms for decades. Now they’ll have a permanent home in Seattle’s Belltown neighborhood, where teachers, students and the public can come to them. READ MORE
By Zahra Farah | Seattle Times staff reporter | June 11, 2014
The museum, scheduled to open in Seattle’s Belltown neighborhood, will display artifacts from the Holocaust and feature testimonies from survivors, an interactive exhibit exploring human-rights issues, a library and research center, and a classroom for up to about 100 students...
The museum, scheduled to open in January in storefront space in Seattle’s Belltown neighborhood, will display artifacts from the Holocaust and feature testimonies from survivors, an interactive exhibit exploring human-rights issues, temporary exhibits, a library and research center, and a classroom that can accommodate about 100 students.
The 6,000-square-foot museum at 2033 Second Ave. will be named for its largest donors: Henry and Sandra Friedman Holocaust Center for Humanity. So far, $1.5 million has been raised for the $3.4 million project. READ MORE
By Joel Magalnick, Editor, The Jewish Sound
Henry Friedman had a message for the nearly 100 school-aged kids and their parents who sat in the shell of what will soon become the museum that bears his name: “It’s not for Holocaust survivors,” he said. “It’s for you.”
The event, an award ceremony for the winners of the Holocaust Center for Humanity’s annual writing and art contest, also marked the groundbreaking, so to speak, of construction of the Henry and Sandra Friedman Holocaust Center for Humanity. When it opens in early 2015 at Second and Lenora in downtown Seattle, the center will be the first Holocaust museum in the Pacific Northwest and will nearly triple the amount of space the Holocaust Center has at its current location a block away, which it rents from the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle. READ MORE
The Holocaust Center for Humanity is hosting Anne Frank: A History for Today through May 18.
The exhibit, created by The Anne Frank Center USA, delves into scenes of the Holocaust through Frank’s observations which she recorded as a teenager while she was in hiding in Amsterdam in the early 1940s.
“There’s something so human about this story,” said Karen Chachkes, strategic director for the Holocaust Center for Humanity. “She was just a child and her revelations are at once childlike and very, very prescient.” ...READ MORE & WATCH VIDEO
By Julie Muhlstein, Herald Columnist -
It's a tangible piece of a terrible history. During a talk Wednesday at Everett Community College, Holocaust survivor Robert Herschkowitz passed around a mustard-yellow cloth Star of David. It is stamped with the letter J.
Framed in a small case, it doesn't look as old as it is. Like millions of other Jewish people in Europe, his grandmother was forced by the Nazis to wear the yellow badge more than 70 years ago.
Herschkowitz was a child from Belgium during World War II. To survive, his family fled their homeland. Their odyssey took them through France, into a Nazi-run camp and eventually through the Alps on foot to safety in Switzerland.
The Bellevue man has told his story before, at EvCC and to other groups around the region. Now 76, he continues to share his memories so that others will never forget.
His talk Wednesday was part of the annual EvCC “Surviving the Holocaust” speaker series, now in its 15th year. Humanities instructor Joyce Walker brings Holocaust survivors to campus for her Humanities 150D class. The talks are open to the public.
“It's always an honor to listen to him,” Walker said. “It's becoming increasingly difficult to hear the direct stories.” The first two speakers in this spring's series were descendants of people who lived through the Holocaust. Continue Reading
By Jennie McGhan
When you shop at AmazonSmile, Amazon will donate to the Holocaust Center for Humanity. Support us every time you shop!
Allison Hoff is an 8th grader at Forest Ridge School and already a published journalist in the Kirkland Reporter. After a trip to Poland that included a tour of Auschwitz, Allison was inspired to learn more and interviewed local survivor, and member of the Holocaust Center Speakers Bureau, Tom Lenda, about his experiences. (Photo: Allison Hoff with Tom and Rose Lenda)
The Times Change and We Change With Them:
The inspiring story of a local Holocaust survivor
By: Allison Hoff
As we pulled up in the van I felt my heart beating. I was nervous—how could I begin to express my sorrow and pay my respects to the many souls that died in the Holocaust? As I climbed out of the car, I caught my first glance of Auschwitz-Birkenau and the famous sign, "Arbeit Macht Frei," or, "Work Makes You Free."
I was overwhelmed seeing the vast place for the first time. As I took my first steps on the grounds of the concentration camp, I thought about the many people who had stood there and never got to live their dreams and share their stories. I attempted to comprehend all the pain and suffering that was experienced not long ago, but I had a hard time wrapping my head around everything. I was flooded with inquiries as I walked through Auschwitz that rainy day in August.
Having been to Auschwitz, my perspective regarding not only past genocides around the world, but also current situations our world faces, such as the Syrian refugee crisis, has changed. After learning about how Jews were persecuted during the Holocaust, I can't help but make a connection to the way the Syrians are being treated now, particularly after the recent terrorist attacks in Paris. Seeing Auschwitz was a very meaningful experience for me, and it raised many questions. I wanted to learn more about the Holocaust from someone who had witnessed the concentration camps first hand to educate myself about how the lessons we have learned can be applied today.
I felt exceptionally privileged to have the opportunity to meet a Holocaust survivor with the help of his daughter, Hana Kern. Tommy Lenda lives with his wife Rose in the Seattle area and has written and published a book, Children on the Death Row, the Hate and the War. Mr. Lenda wrote his book under his given surname, Lustig, however his last name was changed after the war and the family has used the name Lenda since 1945. Mr. Lenda speaks frequently in schools to sixth graders, and although it can be emotional, he enjoys sharing his stories with the new generation. I was honored to be invited to his home to talk with him in person and hear his inspiring and motivational story. I knocked on his door one evening with my notebook in hand, nervous and eagerly awaiting our conversation.
Mr. Lenda began by describing to me how as a young boy, he entered Terezín, a concentration camp in the Czech Republic, in 1942 at the age of six. Young Tommy survived Terezín, and left when it was liberated in 1945 at age nine. From the ghettos, Jews were often taken to camps like Terezín before being sent to death camps like Auschwitz. Over 15,000 children inhabited Terezín at some point, but in Tommy's age group of children under nine years old, only 48 survived the Holocaust.
Little Tommy faced many frightening experiences at Terezín, but from our conversation I gathered that he doesn't just want people to pity him. He wants people to learn from what happened in the Holocaust and use that knowledge to make our world a better place. By sharing his story with students, Mr. Lenda has healed himself and found lessons in the Holocaust. "We must eliminate hate because it's usually the source of bad happenings," added Rose, Mr. Lenda's wife. Mr. Lenda explained to me that eliminating hate is something we can all do to make our world a better place, and it could be as simple as standing up to a bully or advocating for what you believe in.
As I left the Lenda's home, I thought about how we strive to learn from the painful events of WWII. It occurred to me that history doesn't always repeat itself in the same way. Certain aspects of a situation are often similar to something that has happened before, but we don't always make the connection.
Europe is currently being flooded with Syrian refugees seeking a new home, similar to how the Jews were seeking safety from anti-Semitism in the 1930s and 1940s. Today, many see the Syrian migrants as potential terrorists. A brief article in the September 25th issue of The Week described how some people in Hungary, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic are holding signs that read, "Today's refugees, tomorrow's terrorists." Just like the Jews faced hate and anti-Semitism during the war, Syrians today are facing stereotypes and rejection.
As Pope Francis encouraged during his recent visit to the United States regarding the Syrian refugees, "We must not be taken aback by their numbers, but rather view them as persons, seeing their faces and listening to their stories." This reminded me of Mr. Lenda's message to eliminate hate and inspire love and acceptance.
Mr. Lenda's evolving understanding of the Holocaust relates perfectly to one of his favorite Latin proverbs, "The times change and we change with them." Mr. Lenda hopes that his stories will affect the way we change and inspire us to eliminate hate. As Tommy emphasized to me on the day of our interview, not hate but "the good feeling" helped people survive the worst genocide in history.
KTVB - BOISE -- More than 300 middle schoolers at Les Bois Junior High got a chance to learn a history lesson you just can't get out of a book Wednesday.
They gathered in the school's gym as Holocaust survivor Peter Metzelaar told the story of his life.
Metzelaar is fortunate to be alive.
Hiding from German soldiers for more than four years during World War II, he escaped death and torture in the Nazi concentration camps.
He now shares his story of survival with students across the country.
"I feel fortunate to be alive, and feel very sad," Metzelaar told KTVB when asked how he felt about the experience.
Angela Harvey is an 8th grade English teacher who studies and teaches Holocaust literature. She reached out to this survivor and helped bring him to Boise.
"When the students actually hear a Holocaust survivor's testimony, it becomes part of them," Harvey said. "It's different from seeing it in a book or a movie. They actually can carry that story on long after the Holocaust survivors are gone."
Students like Katherine Kerkman sat in silence for nearly two hours as Metzelaar spoke.
"I thought It was really interesting," Kerman said, adding that she learned more through actually meeting the man than simply researching the topic online.
Metzelaar's story is one of intense stress and good fortune. Read More
KTVB - BOISE
by Matt Standal. Posted on March 12, 2014
Photo courtesy of KTVB
While the Holocaust Center has operated for decades in Seattle, reaching thousands of students and community members each year, the opening of our new space in October has brought new opportunities for the community to engage with our resources. Many Alki readers may not realize that the Holocaust Center is located smack-dab in the middle of downtown Seattle. Even if you are familiar with the Holoacaust Center or its programs, you may not know... Read more here.
It is with heavy hearts that we say goodbye to Thomas "Toivi" Blatt. He died October 31 at his daughter's home in Santa Barbara, CA.
Thomas was a true inspiration -- a survivor of Sobibor death camp who dedicated his life to Holocaust education. Having lived for many years in the Seattle/Bellevue area, Thomas shared his incredible story with countless schools and community groups in the region.
His funeral will be held on Wednesday, November 4 at 12:30pm in Santa Barbara, CA. His family has made it possible to access a live video feed of the service at Congregation B'nai B'rith here: http://cbbsb.org/our-community-2/media/live-video-stream/
Thomas "Toivi" Blatt was born in Izbica, a small town near Lublin, Poland. After the Nazi occupation of his town in 1939, Blatt escaped from the ghetto in Izbica, but was caught and imprisoned at the age of 15. He managed to escape from the prison and return to Izbica.
On April 28, 1943, Blatt and his family were deported to the Sobibor extermination camp, one of the "Operation Reinhard" camps in Poland. There, his father, mother, and little brother were separated from him and gassed. One of the SS officers picked Blatt out and said, "You will be my shoeshine boy." This meant that Blatt joined the group of slave laborers who ran the camp.
In Sobibor, Blatt became a member of the camp's Jewish resistance group. He was designated to run messages to different members of the revolt. On October 14, 1943, he participated in the revolt that resulted in the killing of nearly all the Nazi staff and allowing over 300 (out of the 600 who attempted escape) fellow slave laborers to break free. Unfortunately, many of these escapees lost their lives on the minefields surrounding the camp. Of the 300 who escaped, only 54 survived to the end of the war.
Blatt and two young fellow prisoners were among those who successfully escaped. They found refuge with a farmer who agreed to hide them for the money they had. However, the three boys were eventually betrayed and mercilessly shot. Blatt, left for dead with a bullet in his chin, managed to escape.
Blatt's story is told in his two books: Sobibor: The Forgotten Revolt and From the Ashes of Sobibor.
Blatt dedicated his life to accurately preserving the memory of the more than 250,000 Jews whom the Nazis murdered at the Sobibor death camp. He regularly returned to Europe to appear on talk shows, give lectures, and continue his research. He was depicted by an actor in the award-winning made-for-television movie called "Escape from Sobibor," and acted as chief adviser for the film.
Blatt traveled to Munich in 2011, in spite of his failing heath, to testify in the trial of former Sobibor SS guard Ivan (John) Demjanjuk. His compelling courtroom testimony helped prosecutors in Munich win Demjanjuk's conviction on more than 28,000 counts of serving as an accessory to murder.
When the revolt took place in Sobibor, the leader had said: "Those of you who may survive, bear witness. Let the world know what has happened here." Blatt spent his life fulfilling that mission.
Blatt was proud to be a member of the Holocaust Center's Speakers Bureau when he lived in Seattle. He returned to Seattle often after he moved in Santa Barbara to live with his daughter.
The Holocaust Center, students, teachers, and all who heard him will remember his courage and perseverance.
Tributes in memory of Thomas Blatt can be made to the
Holocaust Center for Humanity (2045 Second Ave, Seattle, WA 98121)
The Holocaust Center, in partnership with Seattle Parks and Recreation, was one of 11 organizations chosen to receive a sapling from the original Anne Frank Tree. After more than 3 years in quarantine, the sapling has arrived in Seattle! It will remain in the care of Seattle Parks and Recreation until it is ready to plant in the spring 2015. Stay tuned for more details about the planting ceremony!
By Natalie Singer-Velush | ParentMap Managing Editor | Oct. 21, 2015
This new museum, the first of its kind in the Pacific Northwest, is a story-driven outing honoring human rights and local survivors.
At first I was a little unsure about the decision to take my daughters, 8 and 10, to a Holocaust museum on a Sunday morning. To begin with — the difficult subject. Add in their relatively young ages and the fact that they had just come off another busy week and a Saturday chock-full with soccer, ballet and more soccer, and well … let’s just say it could have gone in any direction.
I’m so glad we went.
Mine were the first children to visit on the opening weekend of the Henry and Sandra Friedman Holocaust Center for Humanity, but the center — the Northwest’s first Holocaust museum — was ready for them. Read More