Friday, April 19, 2019 -
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Holocaust survivors bring the past into the present

Here in Denver we have the privilege of hearing from Holocaust survivors first hand. Some members of our synagogues and community centers, such as BMH’s former cantor Zachary Kutner or local artist Paula Burger speak openly about their past experiences, impressing the reality of the Holocaust on people who previously gained their knowledge from books or films. Other communities can’t say the same.

This past week saw events with Rosalyn Kirkel, Miriam Hoffman and a week-long series of events in Greeley, with talks, film screenings and an art exhibition. This Sunday Aish Denver screens The Bielski Brothers, a documentary of the partisan community of which Paula Burger was a member.

But the hard truth is pointed out in a recent IJN editorial and Rabbi Hillel Goldberg’s View from Denver this week: as time marches on, every year there are fewer and fewer survivors left. What then?

While Goldberg questions the impact of museums and memorials, we choose to disagree. After all, we need to rely on these museums carrying on the message, since access to survivors is dwindling. Of course Goldberg is right in saying that nothing can convey the “uncontainably immense emotion of the survivor” like the survivor him/herself. But we shouldn’t discount the Shoah Project and the focus in Holocaust museums and memorials on first-person accounts and individualized experiences.

The IJN’s Passover edition included a feature of Michael Berenbaum, one of the spiritual architects of the US Holocaust Memorial Museum. Berenbaum recounts the difficulties in simply getting the agreement to create such an institution. Currently he is consulting on a Holcaust musuem in Hollywood, Florida – not the most obvious target for a whole building dedicated to the Holocaust. Memorials exists in major cities throughout the US and Europe. Holocaust remembrance is now etched in the fabric of Western culture.

In its editorial, “‘In every generation’…as the survivors leave us“, the IJN urges us to treat the Holocaust as we do the Passover story: constantly re-telling and re-experiencing. For now, while we still have the opportunity, try and attend as many of the events taking place in our community, and maybe even consider approaching a survivor privately, in a one-on-one setting. Sadly, you won’t have the chance much longer. In the future, we will only have the museums to rely on.




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