THE COMPLEX STORY OF THE LIBERATION OF BERGEN-BELSEN
Bernice Lerner, a senior scholar at the Center for Character and Social Responsibility at Boston University, has taught courses on the Holocaust and on ethics education. She is the author of "All the Horrors of War: A Jewish Girl, a British Doctor, and the Liberation of Bergen-Belsen" and "The Triumph of Wounded Souls: Seven Holocaust Survivors’ Lives," as well as several articles and book chapters. Most recently, she served as dean of adult learning at Hebrew College.
In the spring of 1945, in a move born of desperation and in defiance of Hitler’s orders, the Germans turned Bergen-Belsen over to the British, who were wholly unprepared for the horrors they confronted: ten thousand unburied corpses and 60,000 starving and sick prisoners. Shocked by the unprecedented situation, Glyn Hughes, deputy director of medical services of the British Second Army, did not initially know how he would go about stemming typhus, creating order, and arranging medical treatment for 25,000 “displaced persons” in dire need of hospitalization. In this program, Bernice will discuss Hughes’s actions and the experiences of one on the brink of death: her mother, fifteen-year-old Rachel Genuth from Sighet, Transylvania. Taken together, these two accounts from disparate vantage points will deepen participants’ understanding of the liberation of the largest concentration camp in Germany, where countless war-ravaged met their end and survivors, while mourning incalculable losses, were reborn.
STARTING NEW LIVES
Janice Friebaum is the daughter of a Holocaust survivor from Warsaw. She holds graduate degrees in Jewish and Holocaust studies (University of Chicago) and Plant Ecology (University of Tennessee), and an undergraduate degree in Environmental Studies (Eisenhower College). Janice has worked in asset restitution for Holocaust survivors, directed a nonprofit Holocaust education organization, and served as Vice President of Planning and Allocations and conducting senior services studies for several Jewish Federations. Janice has launched and been involved with groups for descendants of Holocaust survivors in cities across the country, and was an interviewer for the Shoah Visual History Foundation. Currently, Janice conducts training for those who assist aging Holocaust survivors and public speaking training for descendants of Holocaust survivors. She is Vice President of the Phoenix Holocaust Association, a member of the Coordinating Council of Generations of the Shoah, International, and a board member of the Greater Phoenix Jewish Film Festival. Janice regularly speaks on an array of Holocaust-related topics.
Liberation. Emigration to North America. Starting new lives after the Holocaust, after unfathomable suffering and loss. The prevailing narrative of these experiences is a happy, feel-good story recounted in books, articles, films and by survivors themselves. It’s an inspiring, redemptive story and provides a welcome tonic to an otherwise tragic chapter of modern human history. And for some survivors, it is indeed an accurate reflection of their experiences. But for other survivors, the “happily-ever-after” story does not apply. The truth - about the unfolding of survivors’ post-Holocaust lives - is far more complicated. Neediness, loneliness, and desperation are common themes in the lives of survivors in the immediate aftermath of the Holocaust. Sharing survivors’ accounts and citing published research, this presentation probes the lesser-known, sobering realities at the time of liberation and beyond. Circumstances contributing to survivors’ struggles are explored. Ultimately, this session fosters a more complete and nuanced post-Holocaust retrospective.
THE LAST TRAIN
Rona Arato is an award-winning author of over 20 childrens' books. Her book, "The Last Train, a Holocaust Story" recounts her husband’s experiences during the Holocaust, and the twist of fate that reunited him with his liberators. It won numerous awards including the Norma Fleck Award as the best Canadian children’s non-fiction book of 2014. Another book, "The Ship to Nowhere," is about the Exodus 1947, the ship that helped launch the State of Israel, has been designated as a Sydney Taylor Notable Book for Older Children by the Association of Jewish Libraries. Rona’s articles have appeared in Canada, the United States, and England. She has worked as a Public Relations Consultant and conducted business-writing seminars, and taught creative writing for the Toronto Board of Education. From 1994-1998, she interviewed Holocaust survivors for Steven Spielberg’s Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation.
"The Last Train, a Holocaust Story" is about the author’s late husband Paul’s liberation from a death train by the U.S. Ninth Army on April 13, 1945, and the strange twist of fate that reunited him, sixty-five years later, with the soldiers who saved his life. Rona's presentation will include iconic photos taken by the soldiers at the moment of liberation. She will share details of the bizarre and little known "Jews on Ice" program, which kept thousands of Hungarian Jews (including Paul's family) out of Auschwitz, and put them on the train out of Bergen-Belsen. Rona will also share her experience of attending a memorial where the train was liberated, and a memorial service at Bergen-Belsen.
I AM STILL THERE:
The Holocaust in the Fiction and Memoirs of Chava Rosenfarb
Goldie Morgentaler is Professor of English at the University of Lethbridge. Both of her parents were Holocaust survivors. She is the translator (from Yiddish to English) of much of her mother, Chava Rosenfarb's, work, including Rosenfarb’s seminal Holocaust novel, The Tree of Life: A Trilogy of Life in the Lodz Ghetto. Her translation of Rosenfarb’s book of short stories, Survivors: Seven Short Stories won a Canadian Jewish Book Award as well as the Modern Language Association’s Memorial Prize in Yiddish Studies. She is also the editor and one of the translators of a collection of Rosenfarb's essays called Confessions of a Yiddish Writer and Other Essays, published by McGill-Queens University Press in 2019. This collection won a 2019 Canadian Jewish Literary Award.
Chava Rosenfarb was one of the great chroniclers of the Holocaust in Poland, who is little known outside Yiddish-language circles because she wrote primarily in Yiddish. While some of her novels and stories have been translated into English, such as the epic three-volume The Tree of Life: A Trilogy of Life in the Lodz Ghetto, not all of her works have been translated. This presentation by her daughter and translator will offer an overview of Rosenfarb's life and work by way of introducing this important Canadian-Jewish writer to an audience that may be unfamiliar with her work. The talk will provide an overview of the novelist's life and her experiences during the Holocaust before discussing her fiction, including the trilogy, The Tree of Life, and the Bergen-Belsen diary that she wrote and published after her liberation from that camp.
LIBERATION AND BEYOND
Michael Newman is the Chief Executive of The Association of Jewish Refugees. Michael chairs the Communications Working Group of, and is a member of the UK delegation to, the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA). As well as being an advisor on Holocaust-era restitution issues, he worked with the UK government to create the position of UK Envoy for Post-Holocaust Issues and now advises incumbent Sir Eric Pickles. Michael is a Trustee of the Anglo-Jewish Association (AJA), and is a founding member and Director of the Claims Conference. Previously, Michael was a consultant to the International Commission on Holocaust Era Insurance Claims (ICHEIC) and was a researcher at the Holocaust Educational Trust, the Britain-Israel Parliamentary Group and the Inter Parliamentary Council Against Antisemitism.
Bea Lewkowicz is a social anthropologist and oral historian. After studies in Cologne and Cambridge, she received her PhD from the London School of Economics. Her thesis on the Jewish Community of Salonika was published in 2006 as The Jewish Community of Salonika. History. Memory. Identity. She has co-directed the AJR Refugee Voices Audio- Visual Testimony Archive and is currently the director of Sephardi Voices UK. She has directed and produced many testimony-based films for projects and exhibitions, among them Refugee Experiences, on permanent display in the re-opened history gallery of the Jewish Museum London. In 2011 she curated the photographic/video exhibition Double Exposure: Jewish Refugees from Austria in Britain, which was shown in London and Vienna.
ROMANCE & FAMILY-BUILDING AFTER LIBERATION
Helene Klodawsky is the documentarian of “Undying Love: Stories of Love and Marriage after the Shoah,” and the recipient of many international and national awards. Helene is passionate storyteller committed to portraying political and social struggles, as well as to exploring the documentary art form. Her work, spanning over thirty-five years, is screened, discussed and televised around the world in venues as diverse as New York’s Museum of Modern Art and Kenyan refugee camps. Through her films, compelling reflections on gender, justice and conflict are shared worldwide.
This program will discuss how Holocaust Survivors built new families post-liberation. How, after such trauma and loss, do human beings find and foster romantic relationships, bear and raise children, and provide/experience 'normal' lives? Helene will explore the complexities of post-war relationships, and how the 2nd generation was impacted.
UNDERSTANDING THE HOLOCAUST THROUGH CANADIAN JEWISH ARCHIVES
Donna Bernardo-Ceriz is the Managing Director of the Ontario Jewish Archives (OJA), Blankenstein Family Heritage Centre in Toronto, Canada. She has a BA (Hons) degree in History from York University and a Master of Information from the University of Toronto with a specialization in Archives and Records Management.
Janice Rosen has been Archives Director since 1989 of the Alex Dworkin Canadian Jewish Archives, formerly the Canadian Jewish Congress National Archives. Janice Rosen's publications include surveys of Canadian Jewish archival resources and repositories, and she is the editor of a section in the Canadian Jewish Studies journal called “The Archives Matter”. She is a co-creator of the Canadian Jewish Heritage Network, a database-driven website showcasing the holdings of several partner archives and museums.
Alysa Routtenberg has been the Jewish Museum and Archives of BC’s archivist since 2015. A graduate of McGill’s Master of Library and Information Studies, Alysa manages all aspects of the JMABC archives, including the oral history program, archival donations, and digitization. Working with interns, assistants, and volunteers the archives collects, preserves, and shares the history of Jewish people across the province for more than 150 years.
Founded in 1973, the OJA collects, preserves and makes available the documentary heritage of Ontario’s Jewish community through collection development initiatives, research assistance, exhibitions, school and community programs, and walking tours.
One cannot fully understand the global impact of the Holocaust without an exploration of how the Holocaust impacted members of the Jewish diaspora. How were the unfolding events in Europe witnessed and responded to by the Jewish community in Canada? What news was getting through and how? What was the reaction of organizations in Canada? How were families and landsmanshaft distanced by geography made close again through urgent immigration pleas? What were the many government barriers to aid and how did Jewish Canadians circumvent them? The historical records held at three Canadian Jewish archives are important sources for answering these and other questions related to the Holocaust as witnessed and understood by Canadian Jewry, both during and after the Shoah. While some historians and researchers have examined this theme through different approaches (the role of the Canadian military, what the press was saying, immigration schemes to bring refugees from DP camps, internees in Canada, etc…), there is still much to explore. By examining and highlighting some of the personal and organizational collections available for study at each repository, three archivists will illustrate how one can better understand the Holocaust from a uniquely Canadian perspective.