Because we care deeply about our past and about our future. The members of our Speakers’ Bureau are Holocaust survivors who live in our community and who are dedicated to transmitting their past. In the hope of fostering tolerance, understanding and a more humane world they are willing to give eyewitness accounts of their Holocaust experiences. This is not always easy for them as they recall pain, suffering and loss. At the same time, though, they affirm their survival, give meaning to their lives and show the persistence of human dignity.
Their Holocaust experiences varied greatly, among them for example are former refugees, concentration camp survivors, hidden children, “Kindertransport” children, resistance fighters, and World War II camp liberators. Among the speakers are also second generation survivors who can vividly recount their parents’ story of survival.
Apparently mankind has yet to evolve to the point where a holocaust is
no longer a possibility, and so we have a moral obligation to remember
and to teach future generations its lessons. Our Holocaust survivors
speak; actually give testimony, in hopes that someday this will be a
world where people can live out their lives without fear of
persecution or prejudice, a more humane world. As the child of a
survivor, I can tell you that this is not an easy thing for them,
dredging up incredibly painful experiences, many kept silent for
years. I asked my father once why he never talked about his experiences, and of course there is more than one answer to this question.
Any parent would want to spare their child (and other family and
friends) these gruesome details, but the one I think the answer that
is most relevant here is that he felt in the past that people really
did not want to hear about it. The good news is that this seems to
have changed somewhat in recent years. Interest in Holocaust education
is up. People do seem to want to know more. We have quite a sizable
group of survivors living in the Sarasota-Manatee area and get
together for remembrance and social events a few times a year. We
have a speaker's bureau and some of our local survivors are active
speakers in schools, churches and community events. If one does the
math, though, it becomes apparent, that they are getting old in years.
Most are not in the best of health. Some are no longer with us, sadly.
To whom do the speakers address their stories? The survivors are willing to speak in schools, in churches and synagogues, and at community events. Teachers especially have the opportunity to enrich their students ‘classroom experience by inviting a survivor. As historical events become more alive through eyewitness accounts the need for the eradication of evil and for tolerance emerges more vividly than ever. In this way, and in all venues, the survivor offers a bridge from the past to the vision of a better future.
The Holocaust Speakers’ Bureau is a precious community resource. As a part of our legacy we should use it abundantly and gratefully.
By Orna Nissan