The Humanities Alliance invites you to join the Humanities 150D Class (Surviving the Holocaust) for this year's Holocaust Survivor Forums. A special thanks goes to the Holocaust Center for Humanity for providing the speakers and to the EvCC Foundation for sponsoring this series. Presentations, which are free and open to the campus and the community, will be held in the Jackson Center Wilderness Room from 12:20-1:20pm on the Wednesdays indicated. No reservations required.
April 13, 2016: Bob Herschkowitz, Belgian child survivor
Robert (Bob) was born in Antwerp, Belgium in 1938. Germany invaded Belgium on May 10, 1940. The same day, his parents escaped to France and over the next year made their way south to Marseilles in Vichy-controlled France. As they traveled, German planes bombed the refugees clogging the roads. Bob and his parents took refuge in the ditch along the roads.
Between October of 1940 and June of 1941, the Vichy government passed anti-Semitic legislation, the "Law of the Situation of the Jews." At the end of 1942, the Vichy militias, with the help of the Gestapo, arrested Bob’s family and sent them to Rivesaltes, the largest French concentration camp. There, the family was separated.
Bob and his pregnant mother were sent to a "résidence forcée" (forced domicile), a kind of house arrest in a small village. As a result, Bob’s brother was born in a German military hospital. Later, his father escaped from Rivesaltes, and was reunited with his family with help from the French resistance. The family crossed the Alps by foot in September of 1943 and found refuge in Switzerland until the end of the war.
Bob and his immediate family were fortunate. Deportation of foreign Jews to Nazi death camps began in March of 1942, and many Jews at Rivesaltes, including Bob’s uncle, were deported to the French transit camp of Drancy, and then on to Auschwitz. The Nazis murdered more than 77,000 Jews from France in these camps.
After the war, Bob received his BS in Engineering in Belgium and served in the Belgian Navy as an officer. Later, he was detached to the Navy of Zaire in Africa. He was recruited overseas by Boeing and came to Seattle in 1967. He received a MS in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Washington and a MA in Naval History and International Relations from the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island. Bob has written numerous magazine articles and papers on naval armament, military history, and naval operations. He served in the US Naval Reserve for 24 years and retired as a Commander.
Bob’s Aunt, Rosa Schnabel, stayed in Belgium but survived thanks to a Belgian named Pauline Joris-Brouwers, who allowed Rosa to hide in her house. Pauline’s husband was killed by a V1 bomb during the war, so she and her four children were adopted into Bob’s family after the war. In 1997, Bob successfully petitioned for her to be declared "Righteous among the Nations" by Yad Vashem.
Other resources that relate to Bob’s story:
Children and the Holocaust (United States Holocaust Memorial Museum)
Resistance (United States Holocaust Memorial Museum)
Rivesaltes (United States Holocaust Memorial Museum)
Children with a Star: Jewish Youth in Nazi Europe by Deborah Dwork
Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
April 27, 2016: Ron Friedman, son of child survivor, Kindertransport
“It is important to remember an event such as the Holocaust. It is a reminder to us all of the evils of bigotry and humiliation of others. Unfortunately, there are many holocausts in the world—both big and small—which have occurred since, and continue to occur. And it is left to ensuing generations to resonate the lessons of history.” – Ron Friedman
Herbert Friedman escaped from Vienna at age 14 aboard the Kindertransport. This event, and the ensuing years before Herbert’s emigration to America, were the defining moments of his life.
Herbert Friedman was born in 1924 in Vienna, Austria. His family traveled from Radom, Poland to Vienna in the early 1920s. At the time, Jews played a central role in Viennese culture.
Herbert had a happy childhood. He attended public school during the day and Hebrew school at night. His mother stayed at home, and his father worked as a shoemaker. They lived in an apartment in a middle class neighborhood of Vienna and Herbert had many friends, Jewish and Christian. Herbert loved to swim, including in the Danube River in Vienna, known for its strong currents. At the age of 12, Herbert and another youth saved a young woman from drowning in the Danube.
In March 1938, Austria fell under Nazi occupation and became part of the German Republic and the lives of all Jews came under threat. Herbert was immediately expelled from school by the Nazis, and Jews all over the region suffered. A particularly brutal act of anti-Jewish violence occurred in November 1938, Kristallnacht, when Jewish shops were smashed and looted, synagogues burned, Jewish businesses dissolved, and hundreds were arrested and taken away, never to be seen again.
Following Kristallnacht, Herbert knew there was no future life for the Jews of Vienna and he resolved at the age of 13 to escape. Through a series of unlikely events, Herbert was able was to meet an organizer of the short-lived Kindertransport (Children’s’ Trains) and to become a passenger on the first train of ten that left Vienna. The Kindertransport is credited with saving 10,000 children in Europe from facing a certain death in the gas chambers of Europe. Only 10 trains escaped before the Nazis ended the Kindertransport. Herbert was lucky to be among them.
In the end, 1,500,000 children are estimated to have died in the Holocaust. Nine out of 10 of the children who were fortunate enough to have escaped on the “Kindertransport” never saw their parents again.
Herbert’s son, Ron Friedman, is now a second generation speaker and an attorney in Seattle.
May 11, 2016: Steve Adler, child survivor, Kindertransport
"Justice is, for me, the crucial issue, the fulcrum about which my story turns. It is the issue that connects my account of Germany to today’s realities."
Steve was born in Berlin, Germany in 1930, the youngest son in a middle-class, Jewish family. At age seven, anti-Jewish laws forced Steve to leave his neighborhood school and enter a private Jewish school.
In the wake of Kristallnacht, the SS and Gestapo arrested more than 30,000 Jewish males. One of them was Steve’s own father. On the morning after Kristallnacht, on November 10th, 1938, he was arrested and taken to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp where he was held prisoner for six weeks before returning on December 23.
Over the next few months, conditions for Jews continued to deteriorate. In January of 1939, the Nazi government required all Jews to carry identity cards revealing their heritage, and danger became much more immediate for Steve and his family. In March 1939, three months after his father’s release from Sachsenhausen, Steve was sent by train to Hamburg to join a Kindertransport (children’s transport) going to England by ship. The Kindertransports were organized with British government sanction to give refuge to approximately 10,000 Jewish children from Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia. Steve arrived in England knowing only one sentence in English and was taken in by a kindly widow.
When the war started in September 1939, Steve was evacuated with his schoolmates to a small town north of London, while the British government interned his parents as enemy aliens on the Isle of Man.
In spring of 1940, Steve and his brother and mother were reunited in London during the London Blitz. His father joined them in the fall and they traveled by ship for twelve days across the Atlantic and settled with his family in Chicago.
Mr. A. was an active member and speaker for Holocaust Child Survivors of Connecticut before moving to Seattle. He is also a member of the Board of Directors of the World Federation of Jewish Child Survivors of the Holocaust, an international educational and advocacy organization of child survivors.
Steve suggests the following books for people who want to learn more about the Holocaust:
Neighbors by Jan T. Gross
The Sunflower by Simon Wiesenthal
Steve’s personal story on the Holocaust Center for Humanity website.
Books that relate to Steve’s story:
Drucker, Olga Levy. Kindertransport. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1992.
Harris, Mark Jonathan, and Deborah Oppenheimer. Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport. New York: Bloomsbury, 2000.
Children with a Star: Jewish Youth in Nazi Europe
Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl
May 25, 2016: Morgan Ahern, daughter of Roma/Sinti (gypsy) survivors
Morgan is a Roma/Sinti (Gypsy), born in Brooklyn, New York. Until age seven, she lived a traditional Roma/Sinti life with her mother, grandmother and aunts who made a living telling fortunes. In the evenings, her grandmother, Jenneroze, shared stories with the family, which is how Morgan came to learn about her family’s Holocaust history.
Life for Roma/Sinti in Europe has never been easy. The Roma/Sinti people left their native India circa 1000. Since their arrival in Europe in the 1300s, they have continued to face prejudice and oppression. They were one of the many groups targeted by the Third Reich. In Romanes (the language spoken by Roma) the Holocaust is called Porrajmos, which means the "Great Devouring." Over the course of the Holocaust, over 60% of Europe’s Roma/Sinti population was murdered.
When the Nazis began to infiltrate Europe, Morgan’s grandmother decided to plan a safety route for her family. Morgan’s mother was just a small child at the time and they were living in Italy. In 1936 and 1937, Jenneroze purchased Italian citizenship for as many family members as she could with pooled family gold. No countries were accepting "Gypsy" refugees, so Morgan’s family members entered the United States as "Italians." Her family members who remained in Europe were not so fortunate: many of them were deported to Auschwitz concentration camp and murdered. Eighteen of Morgan’s child cousins were abducted for Nazi research and placed in an orphanage, eventually meeting their deaths in the Auschwitz gas chambers on August 2, 1944.
All of this happened before Morgan was born. Yet the prejudices her family faced in Nazi-occupied Europe did not end upon their arrival in the United States. When Morgan was seven, the State of New York launched an initiative aimed at removing Gypsy children from their homes and forcing them to assimilate. Morgan was placed in a Catholic orphanage, her name was changed, and she was forbidden to speak her language.
Her grandmother tried many times to find Morgan and the other children who were taken, only to be arrested and charged with kidnapping. Her parents tried to abandon the Roma way of life and secure jobs in the hopes their children would be returned to them. Nothing worked. For the next 11 years, Morgan was forced to live in institutions and foster homes.
As years passed and Morgan entered adulthood, she began to look for her family. She received several tips on the location of her father, mother, and sister. One day when she was in her early 40s, she was walking in downtown Denver and passed a woman in the street. They both looked at one another in recognition. When they reached the other side, the woman said, "Let’s go have a cup of coffee. I think I am your mother." Morgan says it was the happiest day of her life.
Morgan is the founder of Lolo Diklo: Romani Against Racism, an organization dedicated to raising awareness about the realities of the Romani people, both historically, and in present day. Her work attempts to dispel Romani stereotypes and present Romani/Sinti as a real people and culture. To that end, Lolo Diklo does educational presentations throughout the Northwest, as well as cultural and educational events. Her latest project is the Traveling Museum and Education Center of Lolo Diklo.
Other resources relating to Morgan’s story:
Genocide of European Roma (Gypsies) 1939-1945 (U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum)
Julia Lentini, Sinti and Roma Survivor: Deprivation and Perseverance (USC Shoah Foundation)
Lolo Diklo, Morgan’s blog