Such wonderful times and such wonderful people!
Let me introduce you to a few who have populated my world lately.
COLLEAGUES and CONFERENCES
At the annual conference of Association of Holocaust Organizations, I saw colleagues with whom I’ve worked for many years. Together with fine academic presentations, I had the great pleasure of seeing my friend and colleague, James Young, after many years. James, an expert on Memorials who was a principal consultant on the Berlin Memorial and now works on September 11th Memorial on site of the World Trade Center, wrote the beautiful Introduction to my book, The Last Album. It was wonderful to reconnect and catch up on our lives and on our respective work.
Together with other colleagues, I also saw Michael Berenbaum, who served as first Director of DC Holocaust Museum’s Research Institute. It was another nice reunion, since Michael was one of the first people to whom I showed Eyes from the Ashes photos almost 25 years ago.
Together with other presentations in Denver and elsewhere, I did a small presentation for very young children in a Philadelphia religious school for Yom Hashoah. Instead of the graphic material usually presented (not by me, but often by others), the children and I spent our time talking about what life was like for Jewish children in pre-war Europe – aspects that were similar and aspects that were different from the children’s own lives. And then, on a tiny DVD screen, the children crowded around to examine pre-war photos from my collection. Though it was a modest little talk for very little children, their questions and comments made it clear that the impact of our time together was not insignificant.
Survivors hold a very special place in my heart and I have been the beneficiary of their stories, their memories, and their trust. In fact, it is to survivors – as well as those who did not survive – to whom I feel a deepest responsibility to continue to teach, research and share. But recently, I was privileged to accompany one of my dearest friends and treasured survivors, Henry Skorr from Kalisz, Poland, to a grand event honoring hundreds of survivors who live in the Philadelphia area. This day was not about research; it was just about celebrating life! Here I had the joy of seeing Henry (who recently had hip surgery) dance
and also had many wonderful reunions with survivors whom I interviewed these last twenty four years.
Here is Avraham Schnapper, who served as President of the Survivors’ Group in Philadelphia for many years. He was always considered a serious and very strong leaderâ€”now he has mellowed to such a degree that he can be described as charming and quite sweet.
And here is Itka Zygmatovicz, one of the survivors I admire most.
In our interview 15 years ago, Itka shared with me her story, as well as her wisdom. As a young girl, Itka witnessed the murder of her entire family. When she finished telling her devastating story, Itka explained to me, “I had a choice. Either I could be filled with hate or I could live with love.” And then Itka summarized her life’s philosophy: “Hate destroys and love creates.”
As we move through our lives, let us remember Itka’s wisdom and allow love, not hate, to inform, inspire and mark our lives.