STORIES OF SURVIVAL

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BYSTANDER TO UPSTANDER:

Making an Emotional Connection to the Holocaust

Holocaust Survivor, Oskar Knoblauch was born in Leipzig, Germany in 1925, and experienced the rise of Nazism and the ensuing European Holocaust of World War II, firsthand. Oskar works closely with Anthony Fusco on the Imagine a Community of Hope Project, Steering Committee.  After he began to teach about the Holocaust, especially his memoirs, Holocaust Education became a clear focus. Oskar’s non-profit, Voices of Tolerance Campaign urges all learners to promote Holocaust Education. Oskar, a Phoenix Holocaust Association Board Member, and Anthony both stress the importance of respect and humanity.  

 

Anthony D. Fusco Jr., BA, M.Ed., M.S., is a fulltime Education Coordinator for the Arizona Jewish Historical Society, Outreach Coordinator for Holocaust by Bullets, Speakers Bureau Coordinator for the Phoenix Holocaust Association, and teaches as an Adjunct Professor of Psychology & History at Estrella Mountain Community College. Anthony is a recipient of the Shofar Zachor Award (2016), the Veterans of Foreign Wars: Arizona State Teacher of the Year Award (2015), and Chairs the Steering Committee for the Robert Sutz: We Remember Holocaust Collection. Anthony is passionate about the advancement of World War II & Holocaust Scholarship, Genocide Awareness, & the promotion of Holocaust Studies in the State of Arizona. 

 

This session describes how students make an emotional connection to the Holocaust.  Oskar discusses the rise of anti-Semitism today, and draws a correlation to his own story of survival, with a powerful message; Be an Upstander! Together, both Oskar and Anthony believe that an emotional connection can be made through the voices of love in our hearts, our community, our country, and our world.

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THE DOLL

Faigie Libman is a Holocaust Survivor who lost the majority of her family members. In this program, Faigie will recall her very early years as a young child growing up happily with her parents in Kaunas, Lithuania, and her years of persecution where she, along with her father, mother, grandparents and aunt were imprisoned first in ghettos, and eventually in concentration camps as forced labourers. She will speak of the precious bond she held with her well-educated and gentle father, the strength and determination of her mother who kept them alive, and the relevance of  precious Shirley Temple doll.

This presentation will share Faigie’s story through her newly published picture book, The Doll. Participants will have the opportunity to meet Faigie and ask her questions about her life experiences.

Melissa Mikel is the former Director of Education of Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies. Melissa taught at a small, private elementary school in Brighton, Ontario. She received her Master of Arts in the field of education from OISE/UT, and is currently pursuing a second Master’s degree in Holocaust & Genocide Studies through Gratz College.

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A TAPESTRY OF SURVIVAL:

From the Holocaust to Unity in Diversity

Leslie Mezei was born in 1931 in Gödöllő, Hungary. He and his four siblings survived the Holocaust, but his father was killed in Auschwitz. Leslie spent time after the war in displaced person camps, and was on the Exodus 1947 ship which was turned back from Palestine and returned to Germany. He arrived in Canada in January 1948, and graduated from McGill University in Montreal in 1953 with honours in Mathematics and Physics. He then moved to Toronto and married Anna Wassermann, a Holocaust survivor from Poland. After Anna died in January 1977 from a brain tumor, Leslie left the university where he was teaching Computer Science, and changed careers to become a personal financial planner and married Kathy Cross Mezei. They have five children, 10 grandchildren and one great-grandchild between them.

 

Leslie works on overcoming the increasing antisemitism and other bigotry of our time, seeking unity through the interfaith, interspiritual and pluralism movements. Copies of his book will be made available by the Azrieli Foundation without charge to all attendees of his talk.

This talk will present the Holocaust stories of Leslie Mezei, his two sisters and first wife, illustrated with pictures. The factors that led to their survival will be explored.  It will also follow Leslie’s experiences since the war in Canada, following the three-part motto of the Azrieli Foundation, the publisher of his book: "A Tapestry of Survival: Know the Past, Heal the Present, and Enhance the Future."

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DANA BELL

The Story of a Child Survivor

Dana Bell is a Holocaust Survivor who later became a successful model and fashion designer in Montreal, Canada. She has been a keynote speaker at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa and Canadian Society for Yad Vashem’s National Holocaust Remembrance Day, and speaks to diverse groups of students. Dana and her husband received the “Then and Now” Award from Yad Vashem in recognition of their ongoing sponsorship of Canadian educators for the Educators’ Seminar. She published her memoir, "Danusia: The Story of a Child Survivor" in 2013.

Join Dana (pronounced "Donna") for an incredible recount of a child's survival during World War II. At age two, Dana was brutally shipped off in a cattle car to remote Northern Russia, where she endured abuse and hunger. Dana's life highlights a lesser-known aspect of World War II - the cruel deportation of hundreds of thousands to slave labour camps in the far reaches of the Soviet Union. 

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NEVER FORGET

Vladimir Rott, Holocaust Survivor, is a proud Canadian who escaped Soviet Russia with his family, and has explored Jewish heritage and finding roots ever since. Vladimir recreated and proudly shares the Tree of his Spielberger family, of which his mother was the 12th child out of 13. Vladimir located more than 280 relatives living in the USA.
 

Vladimir will speak about life in Hungary and the deportation of his relatives to the gas chambers of Auschwitz, and will present a memorial complex (built by his family in Garadna, Hungary) with the listed names of 35 family members who perished. He will describe the survival of his family during the German occupation in the city of Bobruisk, Belarus, where 20,000 Jews of the city were shot in front of him; as well as the fate of his father, whom he last saw when he was 3 years old. Vladimir will also discuss student life and work in the conditions of Soviet anti-Semitism.

Vladimir will be accompanied by Stefania Szabo. Stefania was the Consul General for the Consulate General of Hungary in Toronto from 2013 - 2018. From 2011 - 2013, Stefania worked for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Hungary where she was the Head of Secretariat for the Deputy State Secretary for Global Affairs, and Director General of the Human Resources Department. Stefania is now the Vice President of Jesson + Company Communications Inc.

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GRAINS OF SALT

A Holocaust film about hunger in the concentration camps

Ernie Kestler’s father and uncle were survivors of Dachau. Ernie works as a Cinematographer, and in 2019 was presented with the President’s Award for his outstanding contributions to the Canadian Society of Cinematographers. Ernie was the Director/Cinematographer on, “Grains of Salt”, a half-hour Holocaust documentary which explores how talking about food related to the conditions of extreme hunger in the concentration camps.

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SURVIVING THE RAFIACH SHIPWRECK

Tzipi Mann (née Polonsky) was born in Tel Aviv during the British Mandate to parents Lili & Solomon - both Holocaust Survivors. In 1946, Lili & Solomon were on a clandestine ship, the Rafiach, which hit rocks near a Greek island and sank while journeying to Mandated Palestine. Miraculously, most of the passengers survived, and were taken to Cyprus by the British Navy. 

Tzipi will discuss the overwhelming story of this clandestine ship holding nearly 800 Holocaust Survivors on December 7, 1946. The Rafiach's story is unique in that miraculously most of the passengers survived, and now a record exists of its history. 

This story provides a strong message of resilience and hope shown by the remnants of European Jewry, who went on to rebuild their lives, the State of Israel, and other communities around the world.

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LIFE WILL SMILE

A film sponsored by the Consulate General of Greece in Toronto

Life Will Smile is a compelling 40-minute documentary that tells the story of the complete survival of Europe's only Jewish community during the Holocaust on the Greek island of Zakynthos. Narrated by Greek-Jewish survivor Haim Konstantini.

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DEFIANT REQUIEM:

Music and Cultural Resistance in Terezin

Conductor Murry Sidlin is President and Creative Director of The Defiant Requiem Foundation and creator of the concert-dramas Defiant Requiem: Verdi at Terezín and Hours of Freedom: The Story of the Terezín Composer, and the play Mass Appeal, 1943. He has conducted orchestras and taught students at distinguished institutions around the world. He currently serves on the International Board of Governors of the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance and, for his dedication to illuminating the legacy of Terezín, he has received the medal of St. Agnes of Bohemia from the Archbishop of Prague and the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Medal of Valor.

Murry Sidlin will briefly introduce the 45-minute documentary film Defiant Requiem, which tells the extraordinary story of resistance carried out by Jewish prisoners at Theresienstadt (Terezín) during World War II. Rafael Schächter, a brilliant young Czech conductor, demonstrated moral leadership under brutal circumstances and sustained hope and courage for his fellow prisoners by creating a prisoner choir that learned to sing Verdi's Requiem in the camp. This film shows how this rare form of courage sparked compelling determination to survive by answering the worst of mankind with the best of mankind.

Afterwards, Murry will take questions about the content of the film, focusing on Schächter’s role in conducting the performances, the meaning of singing the Requiem for Jewish prisoners in Terezín, the significance of the text of the Mass, and the larger picture of creative, artistic, and intellectual life in the ghetto.

ABOUT LIBERATION75 

Liberation75 is the world's largest international event to mark the 75th anniversary of liberation from the Holocaust.

Join thousands of others as we commit to fighting antisemitism and continuing Holocaust education and remembrance.

 

Liberation75 was originally planned for May 31-June 2, 2020 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. Due to COVID-19, we will be announcing new dates and venue for 2021. All registrants have been refunded. 

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