Holocaust Memoirs Capture History Through Storytelling

– Release of new memoir series keep stories as relevant today as they
were over 60 years ago –

TORONTO, June 2 /CNW/ – “Now we really knew how desperate our
circumstances were. We could not go back to any civilized place and it was so
cold that we suffered under the immediate and real threat of freezing to
death. We were frightened and desperate, and yet within each of us was a
flicker of purpose, a determination to survive whatever might come.” So writes
Alex Levin in his memoir, Under the Red & Yellow Stars. Remarkable stories
like Levin’s remain as relevant today as they were over half a century ago.
His memoir is one of eight gripping accounts in the Azrieli Foundation’s
second series of award-winning Holocaust Survivor Memoirs to be launched this
The compilation – which consists of five new volumes in English and three
in French – is bound together by extraordinary storytelling, heroism and
journeys that brought survivors and their families to Canada. The initial
impetus for the Azrieli Series came from founder David Azrieli’s experience of
working on his own memoir about his ordeals in the Holocaust.


Miep Gies, helper of Anne Frank, celebrates her 100th birthday

Miep Gies, the last surviving and best known helper of Anne Frank and the people in hiding with her in an Amsterdam canal side house, will be 100 years old on 15 February 2009. She will be celebrating the day quietly with family and friends. Miep is in reasonably good health, and remains deeply involved with the remembrance of Anne Frank and spreading the message of her story. She still receives letters from all over the world with questions about her relationship with Anne Frank and her role as a helper.

Philadelphia Jewish Voice: American Gathering removes Rosenblat Story

Herman Rosenblat and the Cult of Good Feeling

— Ben Burrows

Holocaust survivor Herman Rosenblat has admitted that the story he published in

The Jewish Standard: They aren't just memoirs

They aren


As an organization dedicated to remembrance and commemoration of the Holocaust, The American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and Their Descendants is saddened and distressed by the memoir scandal involving Holocaust survivors who suffered through the horrors of the camps and in hiding. By embellishing their stories with a manufactured romance, they have demeaned and dishonored all survivors and their memories, weakened their voice of moral authority

NYTimes: Comic-Book Idols Rally to Aid a Holocaust Artist

Published: August 8, 2008

As all-star comic-book team-ups go, this one beats the first meeting of Superman and Spider-Man. Three of the elder statesmen of comic books

JPost: Interesting observation on Bank Leumi, Hashava and a celebrity with a "lie detector" TV show

LIFE IS all about choices, and it seems that television personality Gadi Sukenik, a former news anchor at Channel 2, made the wrong choice when he agreed to host the controversial television show Polygraph. The program antagonized so many viewers that it became a subject of debate at the Knesset Education, Culture and Sport Committee. While Polygraph, produced by Reshet, may do well in the ratings, it will apparently cost Sukenik dearly in income. According to a report in The Marker, Leumi Mortgage Bank, with which Sukenik has a $600,000, three-year contract to be the show’s presenter, has been embarrassed by the unsavory nature of the show and the publicity which it has received, and is therefore in the process of cancelling its arrangement with Sukenik. That would deprive him of $400,000 in promised earnings. Of course, only Sukenik, his lawyer and the legal representatives of the bank know what’s in the fine print of the contract. If there is no conditional clause related to his other professional activities, the bank may have to pay him off, even if it decides not to use his services. It’s questionable how the bank can afford to pay so much to a celebrity for sticking his face in its commercials, but is still hanging onto assets deposited before World War II by European Jews who did not survive the Holocaust.

WHILE ON the subject of Holocaust survivors and their heirs, Yaron Enosh, who conducts a daily program on Israel Radio in which listeners searching for long-lost relatives or friends call in, is still inundated with requests from people trying to make contact with loved ones and childhood friends 63 years after the end of the war. Lawyers entrusted with the estates of Holocaust survivors who died without leaving a will are also calling Enosh, hoping to find relatives of the deceased. In recent months, Enosh has added an additional corner to the program in which Hashava, a Tel Aviv-based organization (whose official name in English is Holocaust Victims Assets Restitution), provides a short list of names of Holocaust victims who left no wills and whose relatives, if they exist, could be beneficiaries of their estates. The program, though heart-wrenching, has borne fruit both in terms of family and friends reunions and locating beneficiaries of deceased estates.

Rosian Zerner: A bio from The Jewish Advocate in Boston

Newton’s Rosian Zerner lives a legacy of courage
By Susie Davidson – Wednesday May 28 2008

“I stand before you as proof that miracles happen,” Rosian Zerner said last year at the annual Yom HaShoah ceremony at Faneuil Hall.

Zerner’s place at the podium was inspirational, and apropos. Her advocacy on behalf of Holocaust survivors and work in German-Jewish relations is well-known. She is the former vice president, and current governing board member of the World Federation of Jewish Child Survivors of the Holocaust. The contact person for Greater Boston Child Survivors, she is the JCRC representative from, and executive committee member of the American Association of Jewish Holocaust Survivors of Greater Boston. She is also on the Holocaust Survivor Advisory Board at the Jewish Family and Children’s Service, the Yom HaShoah planning committee, has represented Boston survivors at restitution issue meetings, and helped bring about a U.S. stamp honoring rescuer/diplomat Hiram Bingham.

Although her native Lithuania holds the dread distinction of being the country that lost the highest percentage of its Jews, Zerner survived World War II in the Kovno Ghetto, and in hiding. Her parents dug a hole under the ghetto’s barbed wire fence and pushed her to safety. “I was 6,” she said. “They timed and avoided the changing of the guards, the searchlights, the dogs.

Zerner, who had grown up in a privileged environment, remembers every detail of her escape. “I was hidden in homes, attics, barns and woods, an orphanage. I was baptized,” she said. “Sometimes I was ready to stop running, but my will to live was greater.” Miraculously reunited with her parents after the war, they remained in Italy for six years, en route to Palestine and before moving to the U.S. in 1951.

Immersed into Newton High School at age 16, she sang the St. Louis Blues without knowing English with the a-capella sextet the Newtonettes. She found it refreshing to be with people not touched by the Holocaust.
“It certainly did not fit into my senior prom as the date of the class president or into the values that I was absorbing within the ‘melting pot’ of the 50s,” she said.

Zerner later matriculated at Barnard College. “In Italy I had listened to Radio Free Europe and thought I would come to the land of spirituals and jazz,” she rememberd. Instead, it was all rock and roll. Her mother, who is still alive today at 100 in a Waltham nursing home, had been the Konzertmeister of the Lithuanian Opera, and Zerner had been a student at Milan’s La Scala Ballet School. She had read all the works of Shakespeare, Zane Gray, and Jack London in Italian. Despite class structures and educational strictures, she said that “the world, the time, was my very own oyster.”

Zerner was a runner-up for Miss Barnard, president of the fine arts club (her major was art history and her thesis, the female nude), and a class officer. Her future husband, John Zerner, was in her music class. In 1961, she began graduate school at Columbia, but embarked for India, arriving before even the Beatles’ George Harrison. She spent four months in Japan, Thailand and Persia.

“I bicycled in Nepal among Tibetan refugees, lived on a houseboat in Kashmir, bathed in the Ganges and went to its source.” She has since traveled to 64 countries. In Israel, Zerner visited her mother’s surviving relatives on a kibbutz and in Tel Aviv. She married Zerner in 1962; they had two sons but divorced in 1970 following his medical school graduation. “I was unprepared for either motherhood or independence, and yet, in those feminist days, I declined to take alimony,” she says.

In the freewheeling 60s, Zerner’s car had a flower instead of an antenna, she was teargassed in Washington antiwar marches, and started to sculpt again, painting, writing and publishing Beat poetry, making candles, pottery, enameling. Her father later convinced her to buy a home in Chestnut Hill. “Newton schools were the best at that time,” she said. A salon she had begun in Brookline became the Sunday Brunch Club at the Newton Highlands Women’s Club. She organized trips, tennis parties, support groups, and media, joined boards of arts organizations and chaired art-related events.

“In 1987, she joined her pro-baseball player son Jay, who is now a physician, in Australia. Although caring for her father curtailed graduate school hopes, she studied Spanish and pre-Columbian civilizations at San Miguel de Allende and Oaxaca in Mexico, climbed pyramids and became a Mayan Solar Initiate. “I spent a month in New Mexico and Arizona with the Zuni and Hopi, explored Eastern philosophies and religions that took me to Brazil, Japan and Thailand, and followed the Celtic and other paths that led from Stonehenge throughout Portugal and Spain,” she said.

In 1996, her father died at age 90, and she learned that her father’s sister, Lyda, committed suicide weeks after the Nazis murdered her composer husband Edwin. In 2000, Zerner joined a child survivors’ and a German-Jewish Dialogue group. She accepted an award bestowed posthumously by then President Adamkus of Lithuania upon one of her rescuers. “I re-connected with my childhood friend who hid with me, and retraced my steps from the house of my grandfather to the Kovno Ghetto, to the homes where I was hidden,” she recalled.

At Faneuil last year, where son Lang lit a candle, Zerner quoted presidential candidate Dennis Kuchinich: “If we can change ourselves, we can change the world. We are not the victims of the world we see, we are the victims of the way we see the world.”

Susie Davidson, a frequent Advocate correspondent, is the author of “I Refused to Die,” a book documenting the lives of 20 survivors and 10 concentration camp liberators in Boston, and “Jewish Life in Postwar Germany: Our Ten-Day Seminar.”