Pennsylvania to Start Teaching the Holocaust Lessons

— by Deanne Scherlis Comer

No time is better than the present to truly remember the history and events of the Holocaust, with the world-wide terrorist assault on civilized values, which threaten the very fabric of humanity.

No time is better than now to add substance to the rhetoric of the United Nations General Assembly resolution of 2005 on the International Holocaust Remembrance Day, set to coincide with the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, to teach our future generations about the unprecedented issues inherent in this genocide, which are universal in scope and transcend all lines of race, religion or ethnic background.

In earlier years, within public school districts throughout Pennsylvania, the teaching of the Holocaust was just an abbreviated anecdote in lessons about World World II. As scholarly research unearthed more information, and delved more deeply into its relevance, increasing interest was spawned.

However, the formulation of concrete curricula was sporadic, as funding was often limited due to other priorities.

Some, like the school district of Philadelphia and the Catholic Archdiocese, managed to collaboratively develop a premier guide of innovative and successful curriculum, entitled “Abraham, Our Brother in Faith.”

Others took leadership 25 years ago and formed the Pennsylvania Holocaust Education Council, comprised of a committed group of volunteer educators who served as a broker for the Pennsylvania State Department of Education. With a limited budget, the Council initiated teacher training and provided resources, until the  funding was curtailed a few years ago due to state budgetary constraints.

Without financial assistance, many districts could not provide the resources needed to prioritize the development of Holocaust curricula, giving impetus to the urgency that teaching the history and events of the Holocaust needed to be addressed at the state level in a more comprehensive way. 

Several Pennsylvania grassroots religious, educational and communal organizations and individuals, working with the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia and committed legislators, led the way to the historic Holocaust and Genocide Bill signed into law by Governor Corbett in June 2014.

Pennsylvania will now require all school districts to initiate the teaching of the Holocaust, genocide and human rights violations for the forthcoming 2015/2016 school year.

To further this goal, the exploration of curriculum options will be discussed at a state-wide conference in March, co-sponsored by the Pennsylvania State Assembly and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Abington Schools Set an Example

The Abington School District, since 1980 (around the time of the establishment of the National Days of Remembrance of the Holocaust and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum), acted with great foresight in understanding that the lessons of the Holocaust needed more than a few brief lines in its social studies books. I served as chairperson of the Abington School District Holocaust Curriculum Committee for many years as we worked to ensure that a mandated guide be developed.

Lessons for middle-grade students explored recurrent themes of prejudice and racism, and the history of anti-Semitism, as well as connections to contemporary issues. Teacher training and developmentally appropriate materials provided support.

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Holocaust survivor lectures at the Holocaust Awareness Museum and Educational Center.

Today, the Abington School District has continued its commitment of providing quality Holocaust education to its students, integrating the subject matter within new technology, adding appropriate new resources and updating its teachers’ data base of knowledge.

Recently, the district formed a partnership with the Holocaust Awareness Museum and Education Center, founded by survivor, Jacob Riz, 53 years ago in his home, and now located at the Klein JCC in Northeast Philadelphia. Its educational outreach programs have reached 38,000 students throughout the Delaware Valley, and presently will present more than 300 programs, as well as sponsor communal educational events.

For Abington, the collaboration provides many resources such as educational materials, artifacts and speakers from the museum’s Speakers’ Bureau of Survivors, Liberators and Resistors for the district’s assembly programs. Additionally, it utilizes the museum’s teacher trainers to assure that the district maintains its high standards of teacher preparedness.

A Continuing Legacy of Action

Many still ask, “Why is the study of the Holocaust still relevant?”

The diminishing of the group of eyewitnesses, the lack of knowledge among younger generations, the rantings of deniers and the horrific terrorism events of the past weeks and years around the globe, including rampant acts of anti-Semitism, make such teaching an imperative.

As the grandmother to young adult grandchildren who now walk the stepping stones of the 21st Century with its daunting challenges, I ask myself, “Is there still reason to hope for a better future for them and all humanity?”

When that happens, I think of a young sixth-grade teacher from Abington. After teaching a lesson about hidden children during the Holocaust, she cried:

I will never forget learning about this when I was a sixth-grade student. And now, I am imparting this knowledge to my students. I am helping them to see how they can make a difference with this knowledge and their individual responses.

I cried too, overjoyed that Holocaust Remembrance is not just rhetoric, but a continuing legacy of action.

Deanne Scherlis Comer is an educational consultant at the Holocaust Awareness Museum and Education Center, and the producer and writer of the documentary series, Voices of Holocaust History. She can be contacted at voicesofholocausthistory@gmail.com

Auschwitz Survivors Return to Camp After 70 Years

— by Ryan Greiss

Fifteen Auschwitz survivors, between the ages 80 and 94, returned this morning to the infamous camp, some for the first time, ahead of tomorrow’s 70th anniversary celebration of its liberation.

One American survivor who returned the death camp for the first time, Johnny Pekats (80) shared his experience:

When I arrived in Poland, the tall trees made me immediately anxious. They reminded me of my arrival to Auschwitz — the same day my mother and little sister were gassed. For years I refused to return to this horrible place, but I finally decided to come back with my son. I wanted to say Kaddish with him there.

This is my first and last visit to Auschwitz and my message for the word is that it’s not enough just to remember; we have to make sure that this never happens again.

70th Anniversary Commemoration of the Liberation of Auschwitz.

Left to right: World Jewish Congress CEO Robert Singer; Natan Grossman (Germany); Samuel Beller (US); Florence Sprung (US); Manny Buchman (US); Mascha Schainberg (South Africa); Marcel Tuchman (US); Rose Schindler (US); Jonny Pekats (US); Henry Korman (Germany); Ronald Lauder; Mordechai Ronen (Canada); Joseph Madrowitz (US); Edgar Wildfeuer (Argentina).

More than 100 Auschwitz survivors from at least 19 countries have arrived in Poland today as part of the World Jewish Congress’ delegation to participate in the upcoming ceremony and events. Joining the survivors on their visit was the president of the World Jewish Congress, Ronald S. Lauder, who, organized the delegation along with the USC Shoah Foundation.

Lauder said that the survivors showed great courage in participating in the delegation:

For some of them, this was the first time they returned to the place of their nightmares. Each survivor is a living testament to the triumph of good over evil, of life over death, and they are my heroes.

Holocaust Is Not a Matter of Opinion


Jews being selected for labor or death in the gas chambers at Auschwitz.

— by Yaron Sideman, Consul General of Israel to the Mid-Atlantic Region

Last Monday I participated in the dedication of the Holocaust and Liberators Memorial on the grounds of the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus. I participated in this emotional ceremony along with Ohio Governor John Kasich, who spearheaded the project and shepherded it until its completion this week.

The Holocaust is not a matter of opinion. It is an undisputable historical fact. Holocaust denial is, therefore, a despicable practice rooted in one of the most ancient and ugly form of hatred — anti-Semitism. The fact that Holocaust deniers these days are not always overt neo-Nazis parading around with swastikas, but rather so-called academics operating within established university settings, only makes it all the more troubling.

More after the jump.
I recently read about an adjunct professor at Temple University in Philadelphia who has questioned the number of Jews slaughtered in the Holocaust.

So-called professors who deny the Holocaust are nothing more than wolves in sheep clothing. Their motivations are anything but academic. On the contrary, they are anti-academic in that they seek to deliberately obstruct and distort objective, historic truths. They are driven by hatred and prejudice. They should be called out for what they are and condemned.  

An Unusual Holocaust Film

— by Ronit Treatman

The life of a Jewish dwarf who miraculously survived the Holocaust is the inspiration for a new motion picture project.

The Lilliput will illustrate how Abraham Kerber was able to defeat the odds of surviving the war by using his weaknesses as strengths. This dark fairy tale, which is being shot in Gabin and Lodz, Poland, promises to be one of the most moving new films being produced about the Holocaust.

American stage, television, and movie actor Mark Povinelli will star as “Umchik,” as Abraham was affectionately called. Povinelli was one of the seven dwarves in Mirror, Mirror, and a regular on the television show Are You There, Chelsea?  

More after the jump.
The film will take us back to Poland in 1938. Umchik survived the war by hiding in tiny places that the Nazis did not think to search. He concealed himself in garbage cans in the rail yards and underground in the sewers.

Umchik was a photographer and an ardent Zionist. His best friend was Esther, a Jewish woman who converted to Christianity to marry a gentile. Her family and community disowned her for making this choice, and Abraham remained her only friend. As the war progressed, Umchik and Esther supported and understood each other as no one else could.

When the war was over, Umchik moved to Israel. He settled in Kiryat Tivon, and worked as a journalist and photographer. He died on April 19, 1978, and was buried in Kiryat Tivon. The names of his relatives who perished in the Holocaust were etched on his tombstone. The final inscription reads, “G-d will avenge their blood.”

The script was written by filmmaker, screenwriter and producer Minna Packer. She is a graduate of the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, the Pratt Institute, and a Fullbright scholar at the Lodz Film School. She previously directed and produced the documentary Back to Gombin.

For more information, a preview of the movie, and an opportunity to contribute to this project, go to the film’s website.

Life-Affirming Holocaust Painting Draws Attention in Reading

— by Rabbi Goldie Milgram

What is your reaction to this Holocaust painting by Juliette Aristides?

Now on display in a one woman show Observations at the Reading Public Museum that continues until September 14, the large canvass titled 1945 (Bendheim Remembrance) attracts rapt and immediate attention. Ownership of the painting quietly changed hands during the opening weekend, shortly after Alison Rotenberg brought her husband Dr. Larry Rotenberg MD, a child survivor of the Holocaust, over to see saying: “We’re buying this.” The Rotenbergs plan to temporarily place the work in their Reading, Pennsylvania home, for depth of contemplation and then move it to a more permanent, public venue.

See their interview following the jump, and see Dr. Rotenberg’s article A Child Survivor/Psychiatrist’s Personal Adaption in the Journal of the American Academy of Child Psychiatry.
How do I know all of this? Full disclosure: Juliette Aristides is my step-daughter, though she was an adult when I married her father, Barry Bub, then a family practitioner in Reading, PA. Juliette was born in South Africa, and while yet in her infancy, immigrated with her parents to Reading, PA. Many family members were murdered in Nazi death camps on both the paternal “Bub” and maternal “Bendheim” sides of her lineage. Her long period of research and work on the canvas was encouraged and funded by a surviving branch of the Bendheim family.

Juliette’s usual theme in her art is “beauty” — making this work all the more significant. When I first saw this painting, it was unframed, leaning against a wall in Juliette’s atelier in Seattle. Tears rushed in as I witnessed this new evolution in Holocaust-related art. Even so, since the painting’s inception I had wondered how this interpretation might affect survivors and their loved ones-both here and overseas.

The couple who will take possession of the painting when the show closes, Alison and Larry Rotenberg were willing to be interviewed for this article. They own several other pieces of her work and have known her since childhood when she was an art student. I ask Alison, a retired realtor in the Reading area, what touches her in the imagery, some aspects are so subtle that they can only be discerned by viewing the 49″×72″ oil on canvas work in person.

“It is evocative of so much. On the right hand side of the painting are the crematoria, the smoke, and perhaps the souls going up. Then the two people–he is looking off to the side with that sort of pained expression, with the striped shirt that was so common in the concentration camps. She is much straighter, looking ahead. She steps out, she’s stepping forward…they’re leaving that all behind and the future is ahead. Or he could be one of the prisons and she could represent the future, for as it is said we can light a candle or curse the darkness. We recently went to the 20th anniversary of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, and Larry and our second son went to the original gathering in Jerusalem around 1981. There are fewer and fewer people alive to attend these things. This painting, it’s for future remembrance.”

Dr. Larry Rotenberg was born in Romania, where his family was walled into the ghetto that was set up for the Jews of Czernowitz. In the fall of 1941, not yet eight years old, along with his family and 200,000 others he endured a forced march to the Ukraine in mid-winter where his beloved parents would die of the extreme conditions in a village turned-internment camp. His sisters foraged for food until two sisters and Larry were shifted to an orphanage in Bucharest by way of Yasi in 1944. From there the youth made their way to Western Russia, Poland, Sweden, Denmark and finally to Canada in 1948. This data I’ve taken from his published article which is a poignant valuable piece for all who wish more understanding of the beautiful, sustaining, early life family remembrances, experiences, reactions and emotional development of a young Holocaust survivor. During our interview, he indicated first meeting his wife in Vancouver, Canada. Still, it is the painting that he wants to speak about on our call:

“The work has a degree of both dread and grandeur. Dread of what they have left behind and the grandeur of their future. It reminds me of Coleridge’s Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner:
Like one, that on a lonesome road
doth walk in fear and dread.
And having once turned round walks on,
And turns no more his head;
Because he knows, a frightful fiend.
Doth close behind him tread.

It sort of summarizes for me what this couple are trying to do, trying to escape from this frightful scene but they can’t quite do it, although they are going into a hopeful future, they still have to take the weight and heaviness with them spiritually and mentally. They will always carry it with them. What is so amazing is that this painting is such a powerful evocation of the spirit of survival of the Holocaust.”

I ask could this image have been received ten, twenty, thirty years ago? Dr. Rotenberg explains:

“The immediacy of the past was still sufficiently there to keep this from occurring. Well, it is so that what doesn’t kill me makes me stronger. In a sense this couple carries with them a hope of humanity, a hope of the world. If you go back to the Talmud it teaches that one who saves a life, saves the whole world. This painting captures aspects of that, too. Each human being contains a world that lives within him or her and dies within him or her. Triumph and tragedy are combined in this picture, evocative of the importance of the singularity of human survival.

If you want to be even more symbolic, it is almost like Adam and Eve have re-emerged from being thrown out into the world and have come through a crisis and through the crisis to somehow survive and yet carry the memory. The painting is complex, offering dozens of layers of meaning. The thing about art is that ultimately you like a piece because it speaks to you. It captured Alison and certainly captures me.”

Our call ends, and so I turn to find that section of the Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Colerige, a poem my father had me memorize as a youth. Its fullness capturing the essence of our the feelings they’d presented with such unity of vision:

Like one, that on a lonesome road
Doth walk in fear and dread,
And having once turned round walks on,
And turns no more his head;
Because he knows, a frightful fiend
Doth close behind him tread.

But soon there breathed a wind on me,
Nor sound nor motion made:
Its path was not upon the sea,
In ripple or in shade.

It raised my hair, it fanned my cheek
Like a meadow-gale of spring-
It mingled strangely with my fears,
Yet it felt like a welcoming.

Swiftly, swiftly flew the ship,
Yet she sailed softly too:
wetly, sweetly blew the breeze-
On me alone it blew.

Observations, the solo exhibition of works by Seattle artist Juliette Aristides continues until September 14 at the Reading Public Museum.

An Unknown Country: Documentary on Ecuador’s Jews

— by Ronit Treatman

Exotic, tropical Ecuador is a paradisaical destination for a romantic vacation. But who knew that it was also a refuge for Jews fleeing the Holocaust? They joined the Sephardic community, which had been there since the beginning of the Spanish colonization.

Emmy award-winning producer and writer Eva Zelig has been producing a new documentary about this community’s story, which is also that of her own family, for the last three years. The project was largely financed by a fundraising campaign on Kickstarter.  

Philly Delegation Participates in Holocaust Remembrance Journey


Photos by Shahar Azran, courtesy of FIDF

— by Jen Glantz

Over 100 prominent Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) lay leaders and supporters from the United States and Panama, including a delegation from Philadelphia, were accompanied by over 50 IDF officers as they toured the Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp in Poland as part of the ten-day FIDF “From Holocaust to Independence” journey to Poland and Israel.

The delegation visited the Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp, which was the largest of the Nazi’s Concentration Camps. The delegation also listened to the personal story of a Holocaust survivor from Israel, Asher Aud, in Auschwitz 2-Birkenau, where mass exterminations of Jews took place throughout the war.

More after the jump.
Earlier, The delegation toured the town of Tarnów-Zbylitowska Góra, which was home to thousands of Jews at the onset of World War II, who ultimately faced unspeakable suffering at the hands of the Nazis, and the village of Zbylitowska Góra as well as Buczyna Forest, where many Jews, including over 800 children, were executed and buried by the Nazis.

The delegation also visited the Jewish Quarter in the Old City of Krakow, an important district in Jewish history and learned about its significant Jewish community that thrived from the 14th Century until the Holocaust. The delegation toured the Krakow Jewish Ghetto, where Jews were forced to live during the Nazi occupation, and saw the remnants of the Krakow Ghetto Wall. Upon arriving to Poland, the delegation enjoyed a celebratory dinner with the IDF Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. Benjamin Gantz.


The delegation, including FIDF supporter Herbert London and his wife Vicki, near the synagogue

The official military ceremony at the Children’s Grave at Zbylitowska Góra


A group of FIDF delegation participants and IDF soldiers, with FIDF National President, Julian Josephson and FIDF National Director and CEO, Maj. Gen. (Res.) Yitzhak (Jerry) Gershon, at the remnants of the Krakow Ghetto Wall

Left to right: FIDF National Director and CEO, Maj. Gen. (Res.) Yitzhak (Jerry) Gershon, IDF Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. Benjamin Gantz, and FIDF National President, Julian Josephson in Krakow, Poland

Kerry in Israel: “No Option Is Off The Table” for Iran


Photo by Yad Vashem

— by Jacob Miller

Secretary of State John Kerry traveled to Israel to meet with Israeli officials this week. Secretary Kerry met with both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres.

Before meeting with President Peres, Secretary Kerry spent Yom Hashoah — Holocaust Memorial Day — laying a wreath at Yad Vashem.

Before Secretary Kerry’s meeting with President Peres he delivered remarks:

Well, Mr. President, thank you very, very much for an extraordinarily generous and warm welcome. It’s really such an honor to be here today to share in Yom HaShoah and to be there at Yad Vashem to lay a wreath on behalf of the American people, but most importantly to simply share in the uniqueness of that expression of sorrow and honor for this remarkable moment in history that we marked.

Continued after the jump.

I was standing there listening to the siren wail and thinking of the stories people have told me of everybody in Israel stopping. If you’re in a car, you get out and you stand at attention. The whole country freezes. And I know it’s one of only two moments when that happens, for Yom HaShoah and for the fallen in battle in struggles. So that wailing had a profound impact on me. It was impressive. And I think the lesson of today is underscored in your comments about the possibilities for peace, the possibilities for people to live together without hatred, and finding the common ground. I believe in that, and I know you believe in that.

Photo by State Department

You are correct; we have known each other, I think, more than 30 years now. And I’ve had the privilege of watching you lead as a statesman. I’ve had the privilege of working with you in the different hats you have worn in government. And it’s a great privilege for me to be able to be here now representing President Obama and the American people in this effort to try to get us across the line.

We all know it’s not easy. But as you said yourself, it can be done. And it has been expressed by your leaders and others through years that people believe in the possibility of a two-state solution. I am convinced there is a road forward, and I look forward to the discussions with your leaders and yourself regarding how that road could be sort of reignited, if you will, once again setting out on that path […]

With respect to Iran and other threats, I am very pleased to confirm to you what I know you know, and what I hope the people of Israel know after the historic visit of President Obama here: You have a friend in President Obama. You have friends in this Administration, in the Congress, and in America. We understand the nature of the threat of Iran. And as the President has said many times — he doesn’t bluff; he is serious — we will stand with Israel against this threat and with the rest of the world, who have underscored that all we are looking for is Iran to live up to its international obligations.

No option is off the table. No option will be taken off the table. And I confirm to you, Mr. President, that we will continue to seek a diplomatic solution. But our eyes are open, and we understand that the clock is moving. And no one will allow the diplomatic process to stand in the way of whatever choices need to be made to protect the world from yet another nuclear weapon in the wrong hands.

Before meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu, Secretary Kerry delivered brief remarks:

I want to thank Prime Minister Netanyahu for, first of all, his extraordinary hospitality yet again. We had an extremely friendly, very productive, long discussion last night. I think it’s fair to say that we made progress, that we were pleased with the substance of the discussion and agreed, each of us, to do some homework. And we’re going to do our homework over the course of the next weeks, and today we’re going to continue some of that discussion with a view to seeing how we can really pull all of the pieces together and make some progress here. And I want to thank the Prime Minister for his good-faith efforts here. It’s been serious, it’s been focused, and I would characterize it as very productive.

Why I Could Write a Positive Holocaust Book


Jews in Auschwitz being seperated to go to either labor or gas chambers

— by Marta Fuchs, MLS, MFT

I am a member of a generation that wasn’t supposed to have been born, living proof that Hitler’s Final Solution to whatever “Questions” he had about the Jewish people didn’t succeed completely. I am also the grateful daughter of loving parents whose sense of optimism and belief in people miraculously prevailed despite it all.

I’m filled with gratitude for my parents’ love and protection; for giving me a sense of family connection and continuity by telling me about life and people before; for recounting the sorrowful details of their Holocaust past while also honoring the individuals who showed them human kindness in those abandoned days.

More after the jump.
Born in Hungary after the war into the remnants of the once thriving Tokaj Jewish community, my brother and I as children only knew the bare outlines of what happened to our parents. When we came across old sepia photographs of people we didn’t recognize, Mom and Dad explained with just one word: elpusztultak, they perished. (The “sz” in Hungarian equivalent to an “s” in English) to my child’s ear it sounded like “poof! They vanished”. How can people simply disappear without a trace? I wondered.

Dad never even considered himself a Holocaust survivor: “I was only in labor camp. It’s your mother who is the survivor,” he said. We knew that Mom and her sisters had been in some terrible place called Auschwitz where someone named Mengele decided we would never know our grandparents. We knew that Dad was the sole survivor of his family. His older brother, two older sisters, and all their six children also “remained in Auschwitz.”

It would be three decades later in America that we started asking. Until then, there was a conspiracy of silence, borne from kindness and necessity, each generation protecting the other by not talking and moving forward. After all, they had to rebuild their lives from nothing, and not once but twice: first after liberation in 1945, and then again after we escaped in the wake of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution.

In their Auschwitz barrack a few hours after arrival, already in rags, completely shorn, so quickly dehumanized, my néni (aunt) Bözsi asked the woman in charge, “Where are our parents? When am I going to see them?” ‘Look outside, they are going up in smoke there,’ pointing to the chimney. I thought that I would kill her.”

Through countless, naked selections they managed to live and still be useful; so they were taken out to other camps. In Magdeburg, they worked in a munitions factory.

“They had a machine,” Mom described.

I had to push it in and be careful not to cut my hand. The Obermeister came and told me, ‘Mein Kind, my child, be careful.’ He was a nice elderly man. He said, ‘You know, many people cut the hand in this machine. You be very careful because you know what happens when you cut the hand.’ You’re not useful so they take you to the crematorium.

Mom continued, telling me about another kind soul:

And where we went for water we saw beets on the ground and they were frozen because it was winter. We took a couple of them and the German of course yelled at us. And the owner who gave the water said that the beets are his, that we may have them. And all of us started to cry. And he said to the German, ‘This will not always be like this.’ He dared to say it, I don’t even know how, that this is his land and these are his beets and ‘these frozen beets, how can you begrudge it from them?’

“And I remember,” my mother’s youngest sister Sárika néni recounted:

Once when I started working at this machine, I saw that a young hafling who didn’t work far from me was watching me. Then when I was allowed to go to the bathroom he started to say, ‘boudoir, boudoir.’ Well, I thought that he said it with a different accent, with a French accent, and then, before I went into the bathroom he kissed me. Well, I say to myself, there’s nothing wrong with this, it’s worse if they hit you. And the next day, close to Christmas, they got packages. And when no one was looking, a honey heart, a pogácsa he gave me in a package. I never saw this person again. I was so full of hope, that you see a human being who is good to you, even if you can’t speak his language.


Garden of the Righteous in Yad VaShem

I know the reason that my father survived, and his name is Zoltán Kubinyi, the commanding officer in charge of Dad’s labor battalion, number 108/52, comprised of Jewish men from the northeastern countryside of Hungary. A devout Seventh-day Adventist and a conscientious objector with no gun in his holster, Kubinyi defied Nazi orders to have the men be liquidated as Germany was losing the war and there was no more need for them. Upon liberation by the Red Army, he was captured as a POW, died a year later of typhus in a Siberian labor camp, and was buried in an unmarked grave. His final resting place though is where I visited him, in the Garden of the Righteous at Yad Vashem, where a wall bears his name, having been honored posthumously as a Righteous Among the Nations due to my father’s testimony. I placed four stones on that wall, one for each of my father’s grandchildren, and said Kaddish.

From his hospital room, one week before he died, my father dictated to me some messages for the grandchildren. As he sat up in bed, you could see that he could see each one of them standing before him. Here are some excerpts, the latter ones to my son Jacob, 16 at the time, two years before going off to college:

  • Be friendly and polite to everybody. Never wait for people to say hello.
  • If someone needs some help and you can help, I’m sure you will help them.
  • Don’t associate with bad people. Make sure all your friends are intelligent, responsible people and it won’t cause you any trouble. Love them, study together, spend time together, enjoy life.
  • What you study is the most important. There is something that you like to do that’s going to pop up.
  • And what you do, take it with a good feeling: say “I love to do it”, and do the work.
  • If you have a boss, be respectful and follow his advice and directions.
  • Sometime you are going to have your own company. Be reasonable with people.

“I can’t imagine never knowing such a wonderful man as Grandpa,” my daughter Sophie says.  


And I can’t help but think a lot about Zoltán, who rescued Grandpa. I’ve only known this man through stories and already he feels like part of the family. I can’t help but think that if this mensch of a man hadn’t had an ounce of compassion in his heart, my Grandpa would never have been in my life. My mom wouldn’t be here; she wouldn’t have had my brother and me. I wouldn’t be in this world. The stories everyone is hearing about Grandpa wouldn’t exist had this wonderful man not saved him during a brutal time. It is amazing to think about one single person making a difference in so many lives.

Marta Fuchs, a marriage & family therapist and librarian, is the author of Legacy of Rescue : A Daughter’s Tribute and co-author with her brother Henry of the multi-generational extended family memoir, Fragments of a Family: Remembering Hungary, the Holocaust, and Emigration to a New World.