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Hosting a Holocaust Survivor


[Text on screen] The experiences of Holocaust survivors are powerful testimonies to the dangers of indifference, hatred, and antisemitism, and to the enduring power of individuals to combat those evils.

Rev. Dr. Carol Flett, Washington National Cathedral:
To listen to a Holocaust survivor tell their story is not only hearing the horrible experience that they survived but also to learn the strength that it took and the faith that it took to survive, which gives people in our time and in other struggles and other tragedies hope.

Kadian Pow, Museum Educator, Smithsonian Institution:
You cannot get a more compelling story than from someone who experienced the Holocaust. And they have much to teach you about what they survived through and how they’ve survived since. They carry these stories in their hearts and their minds, and in some cases, on their bodies.

Lisa Bauman, High School Teacher, Overland Park, Texas:
They’re so willing to sacrifice all of their peace to bring this horrendous past back up to the surface. It’s just amazing.

[Text on screen] Including a Holocaust survivor in a Days of Remembrance commemoration personalizes the past.

Col. Michael Underkofler, U.S. Air Force Reserve:
I’ve been amazed to see these 18- to 20-year-old airmen. When they hear the stories, they’ll just surround a liberator, they’ll surround the Holocaust survivor, and they’ll pepper him with questions. And they’re just in awe of it. It gets them fired up so that the next year they want to be involved.

Carly Gjolaj, Museum Educator, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum:
Most survivors feel very strongly that they don’t want to tell one snippet of their story. They want to be able to tell someone about how they were, what their life was like before the Holocaust began, that they had a normal life, that they had a family. And they want to be able to go all the way through their Holocaust experience to talk about their liberation and a little bit of the aftermath of the Holocaust. So, I think giving them enough time to speak is really important.

[Text on screen] Holocaust survivors are aging, and they require special consideration when speaking.

Lisa Bauman, High School Teacher, Overland Park, Texas:
You have to be thinking about making them comfortable, making sure you have somebody greet them at the door if you can’t personally be there to walk them in, to show them where they’re going to be speaking. Make sure you have water for them. Make sure that you have a chair for them if they need to sit. Make sure you have a microphone that’s really good, that can, you know, be as close to their mouth as possible so that they are able to be heard, because many of them have feeble voices.

Carly Gjolaj, Museum Educator, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum:
Many of our survivors are well over 80 years old, some in their 90s. So, it’s really important to find out what their mobility is, what they’re comfortable with, and then make sure that the facilities where they will be speaking are accessible potentially by wheelchair. It really should be a priority to think about the sort of physical needs of the survivor as this community ages.

[Text on screen] Holocaust survivors connect the past with the present. They remind us of the importance of remembering and acting to shape the future.

Kadian Pow, Museum Educator, Smithsonian Institution:
In the near future, we won’t have these first-hand witnesses and accounts to listen to. They are increasingly precious as every day goes by.

Rabbi M. Bruce Lustig, Washington Hebrew Congregation:
And it’s critically important that we tell their story, that we make sure that their story remains and it resonates, because it’s a lesson not only for Jews, but it’s a lesson for all humanity.

[Text on screen] Guidelines for working with Holocaust survivors and suggested interview questions are included in this planning guide. Also included are video testimonies from survivors and liberators that can be used as part of a commemoration.

Involving a Holocaust survivor in a Days of Remembrance event provides a personal and powerful connection between the past and the present. This planning video offers suggestions and advice for hosting a survivor. Other speakers, including liberators and rescuers, also help personalize the past.

Guidelines for Hosting a Holocaust Survivor
Sample Questions for Interviewing Holocaust Survivors (PDF)

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