Holocaust Survivor Forums

2017 Holocaust Survivor Forums

The Humanities Alliance invites you to join the Humanities 150D Class (Surviving the Holocaust) for the 2017 Holocaust Survivor Forums. A special thanks goes to the Holocaust Center for Humanity for providing the speakers and to the Global Education Initiative 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 12: Henry F.
Henry was born in 1928 in Brody, Poland (now the independent Ukraine). He recalls the discrimination he faced at the onset of the war when, at ten-years-old, a classmate told him, "Wait until Hitler comes, he’ll take care of you!" In 1939, with the Russian occupation of Brody, his family lost its business and many private possessions. After the Nazis invaded Brody in 1941, they swiftly deprived Jews of their basic rights. They forbade Jews to attend school or teach, formed a violent police force, and forced Jews to wear armbands bearing the Star of David. The police once caught Henry’s mother without her armband and beat her so badly she could not raise her arms for a month.

One day in February, 1942, a young Ukrainian woman, Julia Symchuck, ran to the Friedmans' house and warned Henry's father that the Gestapo was coming for him. His father was thus able to flee in time. Jews not forewarned were sent to camps to be put to work or were murdered. These round-ups, called "aktions", sent 4,500 Jews to the Belzec death camp. The final order came in the fall of 1942: the remaining 6,500 Jews in the area were to move into a small ghetto in Brody. In October, 1942, the Friedmans themselves were ordered to move into the ghetto. However, Henry’s father had different plans.

The Friedmans hid in the village of Suchowola with the help of two different Ukrainian families. Henry, his mother, his younger brother, and their female teacher went to a barn owned by Julia's parents, in which they occupied a tiny space about the size of a queen-sized bed. Henry’s father went to a separate hiding place that belonged to an old acquaintance, half a mile from the Symchucks’ barn. They learned that from May to June of 1943, the Nazis were liquefying the ghetto in Brody, as part of the two-year long plan known as "Operation Reinhard." Most of the Jews in the ghetto were sent directly to Majdanek death camp. For eighteen months, the Friedmans remained in hiding, freezing cold and slowly starving as food became scarce. Finally, in March, 1944 the Russians liberated Suchowola and the Friedmans.  Decades later, Julia Symchuck was recognized as one of The Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem and was reunited with Henry in Seattle in 1989.

April 26: Ingrid S.
Ingrid S. was born in Holland in 1943. Her father, mother and older sisters hid 40 Jews in Holland during the Holocaust. She is now telling her story of this family of rescuers.

Ingrid’s family moved to Amersfoort only one day before the Germans invaded Holland on May 10th, 1940. Her father, Jan, was to be the manager of the town post office. His position allowed him to see returned mail and death notices. He realized that the Nazis were killing Jews long before many others found out, and he encouraged many Jews to go into hiding rather than register. Jan helped Jews hide in Amersfoort or nearby Oldebroek, where he had grown up. The ‘hiders’ would first come to Ingrid’s house, and then her father would find a place for them. Her mother, Nel, was unfailingly vigilant to keep the Germans from discovering them. Her older siblings helped. Jan and Nel kept in touch with the people they had hidden. Jan was also involved in the Dutch Underground. On one occasion, a raid had been planned on a distribution center to acquire the stamps for ration cards. Jan was forced to flee the scene and go underground. He was arrested and sent to Dachau in 1944.

Shortly after, Ingrid’s older sister Ali, was found with incriminating receipts from striking railroad workers, and was also arrested. Ali spent the rest of the war in a women’s prison, forced to mend clothing for German soldiers. Without the pay from Jan’s job, or Ali’s help at home, Nel was hard-pressed to make ends meet during the infamous "Hunger Winter" of 1944-45, especially with a young child. Ingrid's family continued to live in Amersfoort after the war was over. Ingrid married an American soldier and moved to the United States. In 1971, Ingrid’s parents were honored by Yad Vashem in Israel as "Righteous Among the Nations."

Between 20,000 and 30,000 Jews were hidden in Holland during the war. This included the Frank family. Of this number, about 2/3 survived.

Ingrid is a member of the Holocaust Center for Humanity’s Speakers Bureau, and presents her family’s story to local students and community groups.

May 10: Robert H.
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

May 24: Morgan A.
Morgan A. 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)
http://lolodiklo.blogspot.com/ (Lolo Diklo, Morgan’s blog)