Passing the Torch of Memory: The Importance of Survivor Testimony

Holocaust survivors and their families talk about the importance of survivor testimony.

Transcript (Text)

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We didn't talk about it because the first thing when we came after the war, people told you, don't tell anything what happened. That's past, and that should be forgotten.

Somehow, I don't want it to be forgotten. It's the memory of my family, of my parents who perished, and I think that children, especially my family, should know about their great-grandparents. They were beautiful human beings and happy and good people and they were murdered. And so I would answer every question and tell them about it.

What my main purpose was and that I really—that really, Facing History fulfilled that—my needs and intentions very well—was that I wanted to give testimony to what occurred.

I also feel it's important to speak because I hope that my story touches and inspires others to become aware of the dangers of hatred and discrimination and racism. And I hope that after people hear me, they will be able to stand up to any type of injustice that they come across.

I find that the impact we have on the students is really—along many different ways that the student look at it. And there are students that are proud to know that they can make a difference themselves by speaking up and not allowing injustice happen.

And I think that we get—I get as much energy from talking to the students as they get information from me. Some of the teachers—I've been going to the same school for 27, 28 years and they become like part of my family. I'm still in touch with some teachers who have retired a long time ago. And I'm not planning on retiring yet.

That since we are witnesses to some of the most horrific murders committed against innocent people, that it was up to us to tell the truth and to make sure that we hand the torch of memory to our younger generation, because the years go by, and the number of survivors is diminishing very, very fast.

My daughter, Madeline, and my grandson and my son-in-law, who's also a child of a survivor, they feel that responsibility. They can deal with it.

Yeah. I think that it's even expected of me to share the stories and it's something that I definitely want to do and think that I should because soon, I'm going to have to be the one to pass on the stories. And I realize that, and I want to do it.

History is my favorite subject in school and I just like learning about that the most and I think that's mostly from them telling me their stories their whole—all my life.

I do feel it's important to keep the stories alive because, unfortunately, they won't always be here, even though we want them to. But if we don't keep them—the stories alive, we're just going to make the same mistakes in blank years.

I feel it's a responsibility now, but it doesn't feel burdensome. What I've gotten from speaking with my mom is I've seen how many people she's touched. And when we speak together, we're always very moved. When we go to leave, there's always at least a couple of kids that come up to us and they're so grateful.

And I know that I feel that if I can spark one kid to make a better choice or to make a deeper inquiry into who they are, then I feel grateful that my mother's passed that on to me and, hopefully, that I've passed that on to my kids.

But the truth is I don't remember when my mother first told me her story. I don't know if I was two, or five, or 10. I just know that it's part of—my mother's story is part of the fabric of who I am, just as it's now part of the fabric of who my children are. And all the people that were responsible for saving my mother, all those people are a big part of who I am now.

It's very important for the student to listen to a survivor, to see a human being acknowledge that it really happened and I was there. And that's, again, something that worries all of us because we're not going to be there all the time.

You are now—having heard me, you are now the next generation. I'll be gone shortly soon, anyway. But you have to carry the message over, you have heard it, you can relate it. And I think that is the—Facing History, does a wonderful and important—it fills an important role for that.

It makes me feel very good that I make a difference.

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