For Holocaust survivors turning to digital occasions, a 12 months of silence was ‘unimaginable’

Al Münzer survived the Nazi occupation by hiding with a Dutch Indonesian household within the Netherlands. Josie Traum was hidden in Belgium on the age of three after her mom made the agonizing determination to ship her away at first of World Struggle II with out figuring out the place she would find yourself. Irene Weiss and her sister had been the one members of their household to outlive Auschwitz.

Münzer, Traum and Weiss are in a high-risk group for Covid-19 due to their age. Which means the Holocaust remembrance occasions and oral historical past recordings they participated in, like a lot previously 12 months of the pandemic, needed to be digital. The considered skipping a 12 months of documenting Holocaust testimonies was by no means an possibility — time is of the essence.

“If we did not have Zoom, this factor has lasted a 12 months, there would have been silence for an entire 12 months concerning the Holocaust,” Weiss stated, “and that is unimaginable, as a result of a 12 months of silence may be very troublesome to revise.”

All three are energetic volunteers within the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington and have every shared their private testimonies with plenty of dwell audiences. All through the pandemic, they’ve used digital platforms to proceed sharing their tales and fascinating with the museum. Nonetheless, all of them choose the in-person expertise.

“There’s extra of an emotional suggestions that I get from the viewers once I do it in individual,” Münzer stated. “It is very, very laborious to gauge what your viewers is feeling when talking remotely.”

He pointed to an instance after one occasion about two years in the past. After a chat at Outdated Dominion College in Norfolk, Virginia, a person approached him with tears in his eyes and stated, “I’m a younger father and have a 1-year-old daughter. Who will inform her your story when she grows up?” He then requested Al to write down a letter to his daughter so she might learn it sooner or later.

Whereas sharing his testimony, Al Münzer typically exhibits this {photograph} of Helga Friederizi, Rob Madna, Al, on the tricycle, and Arthur Friederizi, with whom he reconnected just lately.Al Munzer / through U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum

This interplay prompted Al to write down “Letter to Olivia,” which has been revealed by the Holocaust Museum.

“That sort of factor actually can’t occur remotely,” Münzer stated. “It truly is the sort of factor that occurs in individual, and naturally, this can be very heartwarming to satisfy individuals like that man.”

Whereas in-person interactions with strangers who hear Münzer’s testimony have been highly effective, expansive entry to the digital world led Münzer to a significant reunion.


When Münzer speaks, he exhibits his viewers {a photograph} as an example that he was by no means capable of go away the home whereas in hiding. The photograph exhibits two little youngsters who used to come back and play with him. He was by no means capable of finding their names or identities as a result of he was too younger throughout the conflict to recollect.

This previous 12 months, one of many little boys in that {photograph}, Arthur Friederizi, who was about 6 on the time, was capable of join with Münzer greater than 75 years after the top of the conflict. Friederizi acknowledged the image of Münzer when it was included in a Dutch newspaper article on a e-book concerning the Indonesian Dutch resistance motion throughout the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands.

“He remembered the little Jewish boy he used to play with and he managed to contact me. We have now been exchanging emails virtually each week ever since then,” Münzer stated.

The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Oral Historical past Venture has performed interviews with greater than 6,000 individuals affected by the Holocaust. Münzer, Traum and Weiss every gave their oral histories throughout the pandemic.

Ina Navazelskis, who has performed practically 400 interviews for the venture, used to journey across the nation to satisfy with survivors in individual. She has now adjusted to utilizing video conferencing from her residence.

Navazelskis stated that the one downfall of the digital interviews has been the typically poor video high quality, however that, in truth, digital interviews can typically be stronger than in-person ones.

“If the interviewee will get drained after two hours and has an appointment or one thing like that, we are able to postpone for an additional day,” Navazelskis stated. Her interview with Irene took greater than eight hours unfold over 4 days.

One facet that has remained constant between digital and in-person interviews is the emotional toll of sharing these traumatic reminiscences.

“A few of them do not sleep the nights earlier than, a few of them do not sleep the nights afterwards. It is elevating reminiscences that aren’t completely happy reminiscences,” Navazelskis stated. “Lots of them can be completely happy to not speak — to go to their graves with out having spoken — however their youngsters or their grandchildren, or a way of obligation propels them to share these items.”


When Weiss shares her testimony on the museum, individuals typically go as much as her afterward to talk to her and take an image along with her. She believes these kinds of one-on-one, in-person interactions go away an indelible impression on a listener, making certain that they won’t overlook her story.

“You’ll bear in mind this since you regarded in my eyes and I regarded in yours and we made contact, and you take away the reminiscence and the image,” Weiss stated. “With Zoom, sure, individuals nonetheless ask questions, however when the digicam goes off, that is it.”

Shows of empathy are additionally felt extra in individual than nearly. “There’s one thing about individuals saying to you ‘I am so glad I can hear you, I can see you,’ and even contact and hugging, I believe which means so much,” Traum stated. “You recognize individuals even say to me, ‘I’ve by no means thought I might meet a survivor.’”

No matter whether or not it’s executed nearly or in individual, each survivor who shares a narrative has the identical aim: to debunk Holocaust denial, advocate the elimination of hate, and make sure that the Holocaust isn’t forgotten.


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