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< Echoes of Memory

What You Do Matters: A Letter to My Family

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by Peter Gorog

My loved ones,

I have been planning for a while to share with you some of the emails, cards, and Facebook postings I receive after I lead a tour at the Museum or give a speaking engagement. I have been reluctant to share the feedback because it might seem boastful, like I’m bragging or self-aggrandizing. I only got over my reluctance very recently after the Kennedy Center cast of An American in Paris (more than 30 people!) came to the Museum and another survivor, Marty Weiss, and I gave them a tour. They were the most attentive and responsive group I have ever led on a tour. They were the friendliest, most down-to-earth people you have ever met, without any celebrity attitude. 

Sharing excerpts from the Facebook posting of Matthew (Matt) Scott, who played one of the major roles (Adam Hochberg, the Jewish character), might seem self-serving , but so be it. I am doing it with tears in my eyes. I have gotten many compliments, thank-you notes after my presentations, but this one stands out. It is special because Matt conveys so eloquently how our work at the Museum affects the lives of our visitors and audiences. 

As you know, I always finish my presentation at the Museum or at schools, universities, and synagogues, by quoting and elaborating on the Museum’s motto:

NEVER AGAIN: WHAT YOU DO MATTERS.

As you may recall, the “YOU” in the motto is bolded as a reminder that the “YOU” includes everyone who visits the Holocaust Memorial Museum or hears the testimonies of the everdecreasing population of survivors. My purpose is that the last words the audience hears and hopefully remembers will resonate with them and will prompt them to stand up against discrimination and hatred.

My dear ones, as you read Matt’s comments, you will understand that the cast not only heard us, but their experiences at the Museum deeply affected what “THEY DO,” namely, their performance in a show that is set in post-Holocaust Paris.

“…While in DC, we were given a guided tour of the Holocaust Museum by two survivors, Marty and Peter. For two hours, these beautiful men shared their stories, knowledge, and first-hand experience of the most horrific event in our world’s history. Their individual stories are remarkable, Peter and his family were saved by Wallenberg, and Marty survived the final year of the war at Auschwitz. In the years that followed, they made a conscious decision to choose kindness and love instead of hatred. They vowed to share their stories so that others would know the truth...

What can you do for men like this? How do you show your appreciation, your gratitude? It was a small gesture, but the entire company brought them to our final performance of An American in Paris at The Kennedy Center. Never before were we so aware of whom we were performing for. I know I was. As I spoke the opening words, “For four years, the city of light went dark. Violence and swastikas in the street. Martial law and fear in people’s eyes.” As we tap danced our way through “Stairway to Paradise,” a banner of Marlene Dietrich was standing in the foreground. And when the words came out of my mouth, those words I’ve written here so often, “Life is already so dark. If you have got the talent to make it brighter, to give people joy and hope, why would you withhold that?” Well, it all became clear. What we do matters. And we do have the ability to bring people joy, to bring a little light into this ever darkening world. We are not insignificant, we are great. Our words and our actions have consequences...

We are still a great country. It is not too late for us. We can turn the tide. We can correct our mistakes. We can open up our doors and help those who need our help. Had we turned a blind eye all those years ago, Marty and Peter would not be here. And I simply cannot imagine a world without them in it.

My dear ones, this last sentence was the one that brought tears in my eyes. Borrowing from Matt’s thoughts, my hope is for all of you that you recognize that your words and your actions have consequences. When you feel that life is dark, when you see fear in people’s eyes, I hope you will make a conscious decision to choose kindness and love instead of hatred. You all have what it takes to make life brighter, and I hope that you will give people joy and hope. Just as it became clear for Matt, you too will also recognize, that:

WHAT YOU DO MATTERS.

With love,
Apu 

P.S. If you read this letter and you are not family, Apu means Dad in Hungarian. :)

 

©2018, Peter Gorog. The text, images, and audio and video clips on this website are available for limited non-commercial, educational, and personal use only, or for fair use as defined in the United States copyright laws.

Tags:   echoes of memory, volume 11peter gorog

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