Holocaust Survivor Biographies - 2013 Forums
All presentations will be in the Jackson Conference Center Room 101 from 12:20-1:20pm. The forums are free and open to the campus and the community. Reservations are not needed.
April 17: Eva C.
In 1991, Eva C. was asked to write a performance piece about her childhood in Germany for a theatre group. She began to perform this piece in schools in New Orleans and at the Jewish Community Center there where she taught vision impaired and blind adults for 22 years. She herself is legally blind. 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 were 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.
April 24: Susie S.
Susie S. was born on January 31, 1935, in Falkenau, (now called Sokolov) Czechoslovakia. Falkenau is a small town near Karlsbad (now called Karlovy Vary). Susie’s family actually lived in Karlsbad, but her mother was visiting in Falkenau and she was born unexpectedly early. The Rindlers (her father’s family) and the Zenters (her mother's family) had lived in Czech lands since the 1700s. They were very assimilated Jewish people. Both her grandfathers served with distinction in the Austro Hungarian Empire during World War I. Susie’s family was loving, hard working and involved in small businesses.
In the Munich Pact of September, 1938, leaders from Britain, France and Italy met in Munich and agreed that Hitler could annex the Western third of Czechoslovakia, which included Susie’s hometown of Falkenau. By the time of Kristallnacht, on November 9, 1938, the Nazis had seized her family’s businesses and homes. Susie’s father and one of his brothers were the only ones of the Rindler family to leave Czechoslovakia in time. They traveled from Karlsbad to the East, back again through Prague, through German towns with the help of Quakers, and then to Holland and finally England. “By now it was obvious to the English that Chamberlain’s decision of appeasement was horrific and certainly did not provide ‘Peace In Our Time.” Her immediate family came to America in 1943 on one of the few civilian convoys permitted to cross the Atlantic. The rest of the family was sent to Theresienstadt, some deported to Auschwitz and Treblinka and also a smaller camp, Maly Trostinec (near Minsk). All perished in the concentration camps except one uncle. Susie had only one other uncle who also left in time, but he died in England. Susie considers herself to be one of the lucky few.
In preparation for presenting her family’s story, Susie consulted with many people, including her sister, who remembered more, since she is three years older. She also consulted her parents' friend, Mizzi, who is the same age as her parents. Mizzi knew Susie’s family in Czechoslovakia, and Mizzi’s family experience was similar to Susie’s. Mizzi allowed Susie to duplicate some of her artifacts and use letters sent by her mother in Czechoslovakia to Mizzi in England. These letters contain incredible information of what life was like after the Germans took over Czechoslovakia. Susie’s family is also mentioned in these letters.
In addition to doing research at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in D.C., Susie also consulted her father's cousin, Hanna, in Denver, Colorado. One of her most interesting experiences was talking with a distant relative, Alena, in Prague who was born after the war, but had a lot of family information. Susie has been back to Karlsbad, Prague and has visited the memorial site at Terezin. She has also been to Yad Vashem in Jerusalem.
May 8: Leo H.
Leo H. grew up on a farm in northern Utah. At 18, Leo was drafted into the United States Army, trained as a heavy machine-gun operator and transferred to the 97th Infantry Division, 303rd battalion. In 1945, he landed in France where his division was assigned to General Patton’s Third Army, which advanced into Germany and Czechoslovakia. While in Germany, Leo respected the rights of two German prisoners of war and liberated a slave worker on a farm. He was also part of the American military team that liberated the Nazi concentration camp Buchenwald near Weimar in April, 1945. Leo and several fellow soldiers used Bangalore torpedoes to bomb the barbed-wire fence to enter Buchenwald and to overtake the firing SS guards.
Only 19 at the time, Leo was haunted for years by what he experienced inside the camp: 18,000 emaciated prisoners, crematoria, cramped barracks and Nazi guards. Leo says “most haunting and heart wrenching of all are the personal stories” of the prisoners. He is now friends with one of those prisoners, Robbie, a Polish Jew whose family the Nazis murdered in Auschwitz. Leo says, “I was blessed to help free many oppressed peoples unlike ourselves. I want you to know that what tiny little bit I did to help overcome that terrible, awful wickedness, as difficult as it was, was the best thing I have ever done in my life.”
Leo began telling students of his wartime experience in 1997 partly to come to peace with his memories, but also because a man at a conference once called Leo’s account a “myth of liberation.” As part of his speech, Leo presents several Nazi artifacts he found that he believes they give insight into how the Nazis gained power. He hopes people of all ages make the essential connection between the lessons of the Holocaust and the moral choices they face today.
“I want students to cherish what we have in this country and to stand up against the bully for what is right,” Leo says.
May 22: Robert H.
Robert H. was born in Antwerp, Belgium in 1938. After Germany invaded Belgium in May, 1940, his parents escaped to France and made their way south to Marseilles in Vichy-controlled France. Robert’s aunt, Rosa Schnabel, stayed in Belgium but survived, thanks to a Belgian named Pauline Joris-Brouwers. Mrs. Joris-Brouwers allowed Mrs. Schnabel to hide in her house, and in 1997 Robert successfully petitioned for her to be declared “Righteous Among the Nations” by Yad Vashem.
Between October of 1940 and June of 1941, the Vichy government passed anti-Semitic legislation, the “Law of the Jews,” and at the end of 1941, the Vichy government arrested Robert’s family and sent them to Rivesaltes, a French concentration camp. At the beginning of 1943, the family was separated. Robert and his pregnant mother were sent to a “residence forcee” (forced domicile), a kind of house arrest in a small village. As a result, Robert’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.
Robert’s immediate family was fortunate. Deportation of foreign Jews to Nazi death camps began in March of 1942, and many Jews at Rivesaltes were deported to the French transit camp of Drancy, and then on to Auschwitz or the death camps of Sobibor or Madame. The Nazis murdered more than 77,000 Jews from France in these camps.
After the war, Robert 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 1966. 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. Robert has written numerous magazine articles and papers on naval armament, military history and naval operations. He has also served in the US Naval Reserve for 24 years and retired as a Commander.