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Eyewitness to History: Joël Nommick

Joël Nommick was born in 1942 in Mâcon, France, although his family lived in Thoissey, a town nearby. Nazi Germany had defeated France in June 1940. In the following years, German occupation authorities and the collaborationist French government enacted antisemitic legislation and restrictions that made life dangerous for Jews. Though they received assistance and some food from neighbors, the family feared discovery and deportation. Joël’s father was arrested in 1942 and held in eight different prisons, military hospitals, and concentration camps, including Auschwitz. Allied forces liberated most of France in 1944, but Joël’s father never returned.


Bill Benson: Welcome. Thank you for joining us for First Person: Conversations with Holocaust Survivors. 

I'm Bill Benson, and I've hosted First Person since it began at the Museum 23 years ago. 

Each month, we share first-hand accounts of survival during the Holocaust. 

Each of our First Person guests serves as a volunteer at the Museum. 

We are honored to have Holocaust survivor Joël Nommick share his first-hand account of the Holocaust with us.

Joël, thank you so much for agreeing to be our First Person.

Joël Nommick: Thank you, Bill, for having me today.

Bill Benson: Joël, you have so much to share with us in a short period, so we'll just get started right away.

Before we turn to the war and the Holocaust, please tell us about your parents and their life before the war.

Joël Nommick: My parents were born in Estonia before World War I.

My father in 1902 and my mother in 1906.

They grew up in that country and in the '20s, they decided to move out because the economical condition and the political condition of the country were not very good.  

So my father left in 1925 to Berlin where he had relatives, and he stayed there until 1926 where he went to Paris.

And my mother joined him at the end of 1927 in December, and they got married in May of 1928 in Paris. Bill Benson: And Joël at one point your parents lived in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Why did they go there,and did they consider staying in Argentina? 

Joël Nommick: Yes. Both of them had one brother in Argentina. 

My father had one brother and his wife and they had one boy.

And my mother also, there was one brother there.

And apparently from what I read and I learned, Argentina was booming.

A lot of people were moving, immigrating from Europe to Argentina.

A lot of people from Italy, France, Spain, the UK, and so on.

There was a lot of work for people in different fields, and they thought that they were going to be able to do a living there.

Bill Benson: You had two brothers -- one of whom is still alive -- Bernard and Serge who were both born more than 10 years before you were.

Tell us about your brothers. Joël Nommick: My brother Bernard was born in Argentina February 1st 1929, and my brother Serge was born in France in Saint-Cloud just outside of Paris, April  13, 1931.

My brother Bernard passed away like 20 years ago, but my brother Serge is still well and in good health.

He's going to be 92 April 13th. Bill Benson: And I know you're still in frequent contact with Serge. Joël Nommick: Oh yes, we speak like at least twice a week. Bill Benson: So tell us about this photograph. 

Joël Nommick: This photograph, you have my two brothers.

Bernard is the tallest on that photo.

You have my father, my mother in the middle, and my uncle Jean.

One of my mother's brothers. Bill Benson: Can you tell us a little bit about your Uncle Jean?

Joël Nommick: Yes. My uncle Jean was also, of course, from Estonia and he was a fur specialist.

And he was, at the time they were in Argentina, he was working in Argentina, in Chile, and also in the United States and Canada, where he was buying pelts and selling them, or selling to Europe.

And he was really a big pro, and he became a partner with my father.

Bill Benson: Your family eventually settled in a village called Thoissey, which is in France, of course.

Tell us about your father's business in Thoissey.

Joël Nommick: Well, in that little city at that time was about 1,140 people.

There was a company with two factories: one was a tannery and one was making fur coats.

In 1937, they were obliged to make a decision because their business was not doing very well, but they had ordered and received a big shipment of furs from my father.

And they owed him 400,000 francs at the time, which is a big amount of money, and they were unable to pay.

So and also they were going to be probably liquidated.

So the judge in charge of these factories asked my father since he was the biggest creditor what he intended to do, and my father asked him to review the business and he will give his decision.

So he went there and he spent like probably a month or so to find all the the details he was looking for.

And he accepted to take over the business, the majority of the corporation, and he left his money in and even put some more money in order to have working capital for developing the business.

So in that little village the company used to have about 300 people working there.

So it was the main employer basically.

Bill Benson: And here we have a photograph of your father.

Joël Nommick: Yes, that was a photograph probably in the early '30s.

Bill Benson: So your father's business, once he turned it around, employed a huge proportion of the population of that village, so it was really important to the economic life of that community.

Joël Nommick: Definitely economically saved the village.


Bill Benson: During World War II, Nazi Germany invaded France -- I'm sorry -- during World War II, Nazi Germany invaded France in May 1940.

The country was divided into two main zones.

The German-occupied zone was in the north along the Atlantic coast and the unoccupied zone was in the southeast.

A collaborationist French government, known as the Vichy regime, governed France alongside the German authorities.

Tell us, if you will Joël, about the anti-Jewish laws that were passed by the Vichy government in the unoccupied zone and how those laws affected your family.

Joël Nommick: Yes. First of all, I think the government was installed in Vichy in the current of 1940, I think in the fall, and where after they had the armistice with Hitler.

The first thing they did I think a week after they were in power, Marshal Pétain declared himself chief of state took as prime minister Pierre Laval, who was a right-winger, antisemitic, anti-socialist type of person, and they edicted other laws against the Jews which were a total copycat of the Nuremberg Laws in Germany.

So that affected a lot of people.

For example there was a statute of the Jews -- the Jews have to register at their police precinct or their city hall where they live, declaring themselves as a Jew, and also to list the relatives or friends who are living with them, Jewish people.

Then in big cities they have to wear a yellow star in order to be a singled out, you know, by police.

Where we were living, we didn't have to wear a yellow star in our small villagebut everybody knew that we were Jewish in the village, of course.

Bill Benson: In the summer of 1941, the following year, your father was arrested by French authorities.

Tell us what the circumstances were of his arrest. 

Why did that happen?

Joël Nommick: What happened -- since the former shareholders of the corporation thought it was a good opportunity to get to try to get rid of him because he was a Jew and then get back the companies which was full of cash now and that they depleted for the war, so that's what they did.

So they mounted a kabbalah and with one of the -- my father had hired a new accountant in order to make sure that, you know, he had precise account of the factories and this guy had nothing.

He basically gave him the possibility to rent a little house, to have his family there, to make sure that he was dressed properly, that he has everything he needed in order to do his job.

So he wrote to the Secretary of the Jewish Question in Vichy, Darquier de Pellepoix, and denounced my father first of all as a Jew, as a international crook,and he was stealing from his employees and from the factory.

Bill Benson: Once he was arrested after being denounced and you know informed on, if you wil l, did he go to trial?

Joël Nommick: No. There was no trial.

Bill Benson: So just arrest and ship him away.

Joël Nommick: He was arrested on June 30th, 1941.

He was sent to a smaller jail which was about 20 miles from where we were living, and then transferred a few days later to a larger place.

And then a couple of weeks after, he was sent to Lyon in a larger prison called Saint-Paul.

And from there he was transferred a few weeks after that to a camp in the south of France called Le Vernet which was a camp which -- originally all the camps in the south of France were made to receive people who were leaving Spain after the Spanish Civil War, and they transformed them for, you know, for the Jews and other people who were deemed to be not living with a majority of the people.

Bill Benson: And after going to those different jails and camps, your father ended up at a military hospital in Toulouse. How did that come about?

Joël Nommick: Well he was able to get out of the camp and be transferred in that hospital in Toulouse by simulating epilepsy with the help of a doctor there at the camp.

And in order to simulate epilepsy, he was drinking like three, four gallons of water a day without eating much and I know he probably had some pills he was taking but I don't know which one.

So he started, after like a week to 10 days, to have convulsions and the doctor said he has to be transferred in Toulouse because he needs help.

So that's what happened.

Bill Benson: And once he was sent to the military hospital in Toulouse which he had to believe was going to be a better place for him, were your mother and your brothers able to visit him there?

Joël Nommick: My mother and my brothers went there, I think at the beginning of June of 1942.

And this picture is a picture taken in the garden of the hospital with my parents.

Bill Benson: I really like that photograph. That's a great photograph. So your parents --your mom was able to visit along with your brothers.

Toulouse was also important for you.

Joël Nommick: Yeah, because I was conceived in Toulouse.

So that was important, yes.

Bill Benson: Very important.

Joël, after a couple of months however, in this military hospital in Toulouse, your father was transferred to Ax-les-Thermes, a town in the foothills of the Pyrenees Mountains very near Spain and your mother, of course she's now pregnant with you, and she along with your two brothers followed him.

Tell us about your parents' plan or hope that they could escape France.

Joël Nommick: Well with us, we have also the wife of an associate of my father and their twin daughters.

They were Jews from Poland who moved to France, and the husband was a fur chemist, he was a specialist of fur, and he was an associate of my father.

And he was in the same camp at Le Vernet, so my father has arranged for him also to try to get out and all this was with bribes, you know.

So they were waiting for him and he was able to leave Le Vernet, but he was not able to let them know that he cannot join them because -- I don't know what was the reason -- he had an opportunity to go to Spain directly.

And we were waiting too long at this hotel because we could have -- they were looking to go to Spain and probably somewhere else after.

But the mayor of the village was also the owner of the hotel offered to my father to bring everybody to Spain because a few miles above the village is a principality of Andorra which is governed by France and Spain, and the President of France is one of the co-prince and the King of Spain is the other one.

So he said, "We are relatives on both sides of the the borders -- the borders with France and the border of Spain -- the police and the people there were all relatives.

I can bring you directly to Spain, nobody will ask papers or anything."

And I wish we had we had gone that way but it didn't happen.

Bill Benson: So just so we all understand, you're a fairly large group. You're waiting for the husband of the other family to get out of Le Vernet.

He gets out, but he's delayed and because of that delay, your family's apprehended.

Joël Nommick: So on September, I think the 22nd, they came to arrest I think us, and my father was able to make sure that they didn't take us, only himself.

So I suppose he was bribing them as well.

Bill Benson: Bribing them in order to save the rest of the family, but giving himself up essentially, right?

Joël Nommick: Yes.

Well two days later he was transferred -- he arrived two days later on the 21st in a transit camp outside of Paris called Drancy, and from there he was sent to Auschwitz on the 25th.

Bill Benson: So this camp called Drancy, and from there he was sent to Auschwitz?

Joël Nommick: On the Convoy number 37.

This convoy had about 1,010 people about on board, mainly Jews from Romania.

Why, I don't know. And after it took four days to get to Auschwitz, they arrived on the 29th and after the liberation I think there was only eight survivors of that convoy.

Bill Benson: And of course you would learn that many many -- much later than at that time, of course. So Joël, with your father now at Auschwitz, he was able to write to your  mother right before he left for Auschwitz.

Joël Nommick: Yes. He wrote a postcard stamped Drancy, on the left you see the stamp, and on the right is the postal stamp with the picture of Marshal Pétain and it's addressed to a friend who is not far from where we live but he is not a Jew, and I think he did that in order not to compromise us.

Bill Benson: So it's addressed to Joseph Guy, right?

That's his friend?

Joël Nommick: Yes.

Bill Benson: What did your father say in this postcard? I think everyone would like to know.

Joël Nommick: So it said the following: "Dear friend, would you give Agnes, the children, and Jean the news that I will in a few hours leave France for  an unknown destination.

I know they are planning a trip.

I wish them from the bottom of my heart a safe journey and to find good condition on arrival.  

Please tell Jean to contact Mr. Werner who may be able to greatly help me.

I knew from past information.

I am leaving courageous anyway and confident in my good star which will bring me back one day with my family.

Would you be kind enough to give Agnes the children, and Jean a tender kiss on my behalf.

I give you a friendly handshake. Jean Nommick."

Bill Benson: And I know that having that postcard all these many years later is such a precious, precious thing for you to have.

Of course your father now has been taken to Auschwitz, your mother decided to return to Thoissey with your brothers.

Within a few months, she gave birth to you on December 30th, 1942.

That must have been just a really difficult experience for her to be able to manage that. What do you know about it?

Joël Nommick: Well first of all, it was a bad winter.

There was a lot of snow, it was snowing that day.

She had to take the bus to go to the maternity ward in Mâcon.

And it's not far by road, by distance, but the the bus stop in every village, so it took about an hour to get there.

And unfortunately, she break the water in the bus and my uncle Jean was waiting for her at the arrival of the bus, and I don't know if he drove her or with a friend or a cab, but he drove her to the maternity where she gave birth to me a few hours later.

So that's what happened, and my uncle the next day declare me at the city hall there with all the information regarding my parents. Bill Benson: So now with your birth, it's your mother and your two brothers and you.

Your uncle Jean is nearby.

What was life like for your family living in this village of Thoissey?

Joël Nommick: Well it was a blessing in a way because people protected us.

People could have easily, you know -- even the cops in the village they knew exactly where we were.

They were there.

So if they had orders to arrest us they will have arrest us, or they could have the French milisse or Gestapo come in and arrest us as well.

But we had very good neighbors.

One of them -- it was the next house, their house was a like a few yards from ours, and they have a little factory.

They were picking up milk in the farms in the country around, and they were transforming -- first of all they pasteurized the milk, they transform it into cream or cheese, and they would always have for my mother and my brothers and I all the necessity on that end.

And they never wanted to be paid for that.

And also most of the production was requisitioned by the government, so they have to cheat in order to -- because they will have had to declare, so they probably, I don't know how they did it, but we always had milk for me, my brother, my mother, and cheese and stuff like that.

Bill Benson: But Joël they knew.

They knew you were Jewish, right?

Joël Nommick: Yes, absolu tely.

Bill Benson: So what was the risk to them?

Joël Nommick: Well they will have risk the same punishment that the Jews will have.

To be taken, you know.

In another area where it happened, people were killed or sent to camps just because of that.

Because they were helping Jews.

Bill Benson: You had obviously very kind and brave neighbors who were willing to help out in the village.

But your mother -- her husband is now, your dad -- he's now been taken away to Auschwitz.

She doesn't know what's going to become of him.

What was that time like for her? Did you ever get any insight to how she was able to cope with all that you were dealing with?

Joël Nommick: Well first of all, she had to take care of me, you know, so that was her main concern, make sure my brothers also were taken care of.

And during those times I was very often very sick, so she was highly concerned, you know, to keep me alive and in good health, you know, basically.

But she had moments, she told me later on when I was a teenager, she told me she had moment of despair, you know, like she said, "G-d, how you permit these things to happen?"

And she was praying, "Maybe I should die this this night and not wake up." But she told me in the morning she heard me crying because I needed probably a change or also to  eat so she went, but she had tough times I'm sure.

Bill Benson: And at that time your two brothers Bernard and Serge, they were attending a high school in a nearby town, and they were staying with a woman who ran a boarding house.

They stayed with her during the week and come home on the weekends.

What was their experience like living in this other town in a boarding house?

Joël Nommick: Well, it was in fact in the town where I was born, in Mâcon.

And my mother I think made a wise decision because she didn't want them to stay in the boarding side of the high school because she was scared that if they were looking for Jews and coming to the school, you know, they had no chance to escape.

So she found that woman who was giving room and board, and they were there so it was easy for them to walk to the school.

It was not far, and also, you know, they had a certain independence to move.

And at that time my uncle was also there sometimes and there were like three guys from Alsace who were trying to flee France to go to Morocco to join the American Army because the young Alsatian boys, when it was time for them to go to the Army, were forced to enroll either in the Wehrmacht or in the SS and they didn't want to fight for Germany.

That was not their philosophy, so they were trying to get there.

So this woman, she had a son -- she was a widow from World War I -- and her son was a prisoner of war in Germany in a Stalag, and she thought that if she goes to the German in that city, they will send back, if she denounced everybody, they will send back her son.

So she did that and she went to the commandanture and not the French milisse and Gestapo which were next door, she probably missed it, and the commandanture was soldiers only.

And the commandant was also a veteran of World War I.

I don't think he wanted to be a cop, you know, so he made sure to let know everybody that they will have to leave before curfew that evening, because at six o'clock or 6:30 in the morning, they will come to arrest them.

So they had like one hour between eight and nine to leave because at nine o'clock with the curfew if you're outside and if there is a patrol, if you don't stop they shoot you.

So they both found a place where to stay but since they were not in the same grades, you know, they have different schedules, so the next day it took them I think a day or two to find each other, and they were so scared that the other one was taken or something like that, but they were able to be saved.

Bill Benson: That had to be just a terrifying experience for your brothers.

Joël Nommick: Oh yeah, definitely.

Bill Benson: I do have to ask if this woman who was willing to turn everybody into the authorities in the hope that it would get her son released from a POW camp in Germany, did it work?

Joël Nommick: No, it didn't.

Bill Benson: Joël, in August 1943, your mother received letters from your father from Auschwitz which is remarkable to me.

What do you know about the circumstances that made it possible for him to be able to write these letters to your mother?

What do you know about them?

Joël Nommick: Yes. It goes back to the the moment he arrived in Auschwitz, because when he arrived in the fall of 1942, they were still building barracks for about a few months and then later for the prisoners, but also they were building lodging, you know, for the SS and their families.

So at that time when he came, they asked him before first of all he had to go through the selection which he survived, and they were asking what kind of work he had and he said he was a chemist.

Didn't want to say he was a businessman because he said they probably don't need someone like that here.

And then they were looking for people to move -- well, glazers, you know, to install windows, to install glass windows, and my father was very good with his hands with anything, so he volunteered for that and they brought, you know, some of these people were glazers and they have to demonstrate that they were able to do that which he did, so he was a glazer and because my father was speaking German perfectly, you know, like a German and the guy asked him if he could do some paintings also, to paint their kids' bedroom and also if he can make toys, which he did. 

He made some toys in wood that he painted for the kids.

And the officer was happy to see that probably, and he asked him if he can make -- this officer he loved to ride a horse -- he had a horse -- and if he can make a sculpture in wood of the head of the horse, which he did and painted everything and it was really the head of that horse, according to what I know.

So I think that protected him.

He was in a warmer environment than being in a barrack, I think at that time...

Bill Benson: Because he's in the home doing all this work in there.

Joël Nommick: So he will go to the barrack maybe at night, you know, but during the day he's there.

And also he probably had access to better food than the food that he would have in the barracks.

Bill Benson: And that gave him the freedom to write these letters to your mother?

Joël Nommick: Yes. And he asked for -- he wrote to the same person where he wrote the card that...

Bill Benson: To Mr. Guy?

The same person as before?


Joël Nommick: And where he asked for plenty of different things.

He was giving also information about himself, like he wrote, "Oh, this past weekend we were very lucky.

We worked a lot during the week but they send us to swim in the lake."

I think that was just for the censorship, you know.

Bill Benson: The censors, yeah.

Joël Nommick: The censor.  

So he said he was looking for a warm clothes and for underwear, for a little notebook with a pencil, and also he wanted a small French dictionary because he didn't want to lose his French, you know.

And in fact, I recuperated this dictionary.

I have it.

Bill Benson: You have it still?

Joël Nommick: Yeah because there was a prisoner, but not a Jew, a French Communist prisoner from our village which came back and he brought it to my mother.

Bill Benson: Wow. Joël, the war ended in Europe in May 1945, but Thoissey was liberated eight months earlier in, I think, September of 1944.

You were nearly two years old at the time.

Tell us what you know about your family's liberation.

Joël Nommick: Well, that was like joy, a huge joy.

Finally free, you know.

Finally free.

And to see that they don't have to hide and to live in terror and in anguish all the time.

And for my two brothers, it was the best day of their life.

Bill Benson: Your father was liberated from Bergen-Belsen concentration camp on April 15, 1945.

That was you know eight months or so after your own liberation.

And he wrote to your mother on April 18th.

What did he say in that letter?

Joël Nommick: He said, "I am free at last, I'm in good health" -- no, he said, "I am fine, I hope you're all in good health.

I should be with you in a short period of time and I will finally see the son I never met."

Bill Benson: So after getting that letter, your family was waiting for your father to come back, and when he did not return after several weeks, your mother asked a cousin in England to make an inquiry with the British Red Cross.

Why did she do that and why the British Red Cross, and what happened?

Joël Nommick: She did that because there was a woman from the same village was a prisoner in Bergen-Belsen, she was I think in Ravensbrück before.

And she was from the resistance and she had this tough life.

She was tortured by Klaus Barbie in Lyon, then she was sent to Ravensbrück where she was submitted to experiments, medical experiments and damaged, and then she ended up in  Bergen-Belsen.

And one day after the liberation, people were looking to places where there is water, they can wash and they can wash their things.

At one of this point of this place where she bumped into my father and she said, "Jean, I know the French soldier they're going to bring back  here soon."

Because he was in the French barrack, you know, with French prisoner.

And he was so happy.

So when she came back to the village, she came to see my father and she couldn't understand. "How come he's not here?"

So this is why we started to make research because we knew it has been slower.

That it had been liberated by the Brits.

So we had relatives in London, so my mother phoned one of her relative and explained to her what happened, and she made inquiry to the Ministry of War and to the British Red Cross, and came back with "Left for Russia."

Bill Benson: Left for Russia?

Joël Nommick: We could not understand.

Why did he leave for Russia?

Is that maybe because he was born in Russia before World War I?

Was it -- I don't know what was the reason.

Bill Benson: Right.

But the fact is that he did not return.

He never returned.

Joël Nommick: No, and the French they sent also an inquiry through the French military, and they said there were so many people dying from typhus in Bergen-Belsen that they had those common graves, you know, where ten thousand, hundred thousand people were buried and probably, you know, that's what happened to him but we were never sure until now basically.

Bill Benson: Your father was formally declared dead in 1955 and around that time, a man came and knocked on your door in Thoissey, your family's home, he knocked on the door.

That was very significant.

Tell us about that.

Joël Nommick: Yes that was in the summer of in fact '54.

I think it was either the 31st of July or the 1st of August which was vacation time.

And it was very hot so during the -- after our lunch we usually stay home.

My mother will close all the the windows towards the sun and the shutters.

So I was downstairs, I was reading.

I was always an avid reader and my mother also, but she was upstairs because she did a correspondence every day.

And someone rang the bell, and so I went to open the door.

I saw a tall fellow with a mustache, I remember.

Big guy.

And he asked to see my father.

I said, "I'm sorry, but my father died during the war."

And he started crying but I mean crying with, you know, tears coming down his face, you know, like I mean I never saw a man, an adult man crying in front of me so I didn't know what to say.

I went to see my mother.

I told her and she came and he introduced himself and he said, "We are going to the south of France on vacation."

So she asked him, "Where is your family?" and he said, "Oh, they are outside."

They got a small car with a small type of Winnebago in the back -- RV -- and with their children.

So my mother said, "You're not going to leave them in the heat so come in."

And in fact they stay until the next day.

And that was the first time I heard directly from someone who was with my father in Auschwitz.

This guy was sent to Auschwitz in early 1944, because he was a member of the Communist Youth.

He was originally from a small town close to the Belgian border on the northwest France.

And when he arrived, he was in the same barrack as my father was and he became sick.

He got typhus and my father, with the help of a Hungarian Jewish doctor, they first of all hide him.

I don't know how, I don't remember or if he told us how, and they found food, good food and probably soup, and also some medication and they saved him.

Bill Benson: You’ve learned so much like you’ve said about who he was about his character including this man, coming back all those years later to talk about how your father had helped to save his life.

What about your mother, Joël?

After all that she’d gone through, the responsibilities that she had with the newborn and your brothers, how did she manage after the war?

Joël Nommick: Well, since we still were hoping maybe one day he will come back.

First of all, she didn’t want to have a -- first of all, even if she wanted to, she could not remarry until he was declared dead.

So even after that she was a good-looking woman.

She was smart, was educated.

She could have a make a new life.

But I think she never wanted to give us a new father in our life, so I think she probably should have done that.

I think for old age it would have been nice to have some good companion.

But that was not what she wanted.

Bill Benson: She lived a very long time though, didn’t she?

Joël Nommick: Yes she died, she was 97 years and 11 months old.

Bill Benson: And she stayed in France always?

Joël Nommick: She stayed in the same house.

Bill Benson: Same house, same house in Thoissey.

Joël, there’s so much more I’d love to ask you, but I think I’m just going to ask you one more question today.

As we face rising antisemitism, related conspiracy theories, and Holocaust denial, please tell us what we can learn from what you experienced during the Holocaust.

Joël Nommick: Well first of all, we cannot tolerate this type of philosophy or political views that you have to get rid of people because they don't think or look like you or live a different life like you do.

We are there as the last witnesses and it's important for us to bring that message to schools, young people, to let them know what can happen, because liberty and freedom is not necessarily something you're born with or you're going to acquire, you know.

It has to be -- you have to make sure that it stays in your country where you live and make sure that you are a good citizen and that you have the right attitude.

And you have to condemn those people, you know, when you see all these in the world now in America but in other places, those movements, it's very hard to look at that.

It's hard to look what's going on in Ukraine, or some of also genocidal places like in Burma with Rohingyas because they're not the same people as a majority and so on, so this is not tolerable. 

I think you can agree to disagree without being disagreeable, you know, but you have to stand your opinion, and this is why I'm doing what I'm doing here.

This conversation has been edited in length for educational and classroom use. View Joël Nommick's complete First Person: Conversations with Holocaust Survivors program.