The campus and the community are invited to join the Humanities 150D Class for the 2015 Holocaust Survivor Forum Series during Spring Quarter 2015: 12:20-1:20 in WHI 105 on Wednesdays April 15, 29, May 13, and 27. Forum speakers are provided by the Holocaust Center for Humanity .
April 15: 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 Friedmansy 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 29: Pete M.
Pete was born in Amsterdam in 1935. In 1942, the Nazis seized his entire family, except for Pete and his mother. Pete’s mother contacted the Dutch Underground, through which she found Klaas and Roefina Post who sheltered Pete and his mother on their small farm in the northern Netherlands, putting their own lives at risk. Yad Vashem, Israel’s leading Holocaust Museum, posthumously awarded the Posts the Righteous Among the Nations title.
For two and a half years the Posts shared their meager rations and gave Pete the love and attention he would have received from his father. After frequent Nazi raids in the area, Klaas built a two-person cave in the ground in the adjacent forest. Pete and his mother hid in this cave for many days.
Eventually, staying with the Posts became too dangerous. To avoid endangering the Posts’ lives, Pete’s mother contacted the Dutch Underground once more and two women living in The Hague offered them shelter.
Pete and his mother were forced to leave The Hague when his mother found out they were going to be turned in. In a cunning display, they hitched a ride, incognito, on a Nazi troop convoy to Amsterdam.
At the end of the war, Pete and his mother were the only survivors in their family. In 1949, they both immigrated to the United States.
It was not until 1993 that Pete returned to Holland. The incredible discoveries he made during this visit convinced Pete to share his story. He has done so ever since, in schools, universities, synagogues and churches.
May 13: 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.
May 27: Eva C.
Can any of this happen here? That’s something that’s up to each and every one us.
In 1991, Eva was asked to write a performance piece about her childhood in Germany for a theatre group she worked with. She began to perform this piece in schools in New Orleans where she was living. When she returned to Seattle in 1996, she learned about the Holocaust Center’s Speakers Bureau and decided to become a speaker.
When she speaks at schools, Eva presents her performance piece: “A Page from the Past … Or is it?” The play is a staged memory of her experience in Germany during the Holocaust.
In March 1933, the year Hitler came to power, Eva was 11. Her father came home early one day and explained he had been fired from his job as a newspaper’s music and drama critic because he was Jewish. When Eva was in fifth grade, the school principal called upon all the Jewish students in school and explained that while they were excellent students, Nazi laws now required their expulsion from school.
Eva’s father died of a heart attack when she was 13. It was a tragedy depriving Eva of a loving father who had taught her to appreciate opera, theater and music. Ironically, it may have spared her father from being one of 30,000 Jewish males imprisoned in Germany in November 1938, on Kristallnacht. On the “Night of Broken Glass,” Nazi party officials and storm troopers instigated the destruction of hundreds synagogues and thousands of Jewish stores.
It took Eva and her mother a year to arrange for an affidavit from a cousin in Seattle, and finally in July, 1939, they able to leave Germany. Nazi laws restricted the amount of money emigrating Jews could take from Germany, so Eva and her mother arrived in Seattle with $20. She was 16 years old. Two weeks later, on Sept. 1, 1939, Germany invaded Poland and ignited WWII.
Eva, an actress, performs a one-woman play about how she, as a little girl, experienced the rise of anti-Semitism and racist laws in Nazi Germany.
Eva lives in Seattle and is a member of the Center’s Speakers Bureau.