The Jewish New Year is a time for reflection and commitment toward a more just world. The six Holocaust survivors we feature in this issue are a few among the approximately 75 survivors currently living in Southern Arizona, most of whom were children or teens when the war broke out.
Their concerns today are immediate, which makes sense both as they advance in age and in light of the rising anti-Semitism and xenophobia they see in our world. They want to share their stories as often as possible. They want to honor and remember murdered family members and Jewish communities that no longer exist. They want to ensure the world never forgets and never denies the Holocaust, and that the next generation commits to sharing their stories.
Over the years, the Arizona Jewish Post has published many stories of the Holocaust survivors who live in Southern Arizona, but it has been some time since we presented several of their stories together, in their own words. In some ways, this special section builds on the work of the Holocaust History Center at the Jewish History Museum. The opening of the Holocaust History Center on the museum campus in February 2016 marked the realization of a long-standing aspiration of Holocaust survivors and their descendants in Southern Arizona: the establishment of an institution dedicated to preserving and presenting their personal and familial life histories for future generations. More than 260 people from 18 different nations who experienced Nazi persecution later came to live in Southern Arizona. Their life histories are the centerpiece of the “Intimate Histories” exhibition in the Holocaust History Center. By placing Holocaust survivors who have lived in our community at the center of this core exhibition, a catastrophic history that can feel far away in time and space becomes close and immediate.
Southern Arizona’s Holocaust survivors are a diverse group of people with one commonality they would prefer not to have; however, they emanate resilience and strength. The survivors tell their stories throughout our community to all requests, from schools and libraries to courthouse staff and newly inducted police recruits. Five of the local male survivors from Eastern Europe have taken it upon themselves to educate wherever they go by wearing hats they created identifying them as World War II Holocaust Survivors. They wear them daily, as living proof that cannot be denied, and they are willing to speak to whomever they come across at any time.
Many of the survivors who present their stories in this special section also are featured in the book “To Tell Our Stories: Holocaust Survivors of Southern Arizona,” compiled by Raisa Moroz, coordinator of Holocaust survivor services at Jewish Family & Children’s Services of Southern Arizona, and Richard Fenwick, a JFCS volunteer. JFCS provides multiple services for Holocaust survivors to support independent and dignified living, funded by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, Inc. and the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona. The two volumes of “To Tell Our Stories” (with a third volume in Russian) include the stories of 81 survivors, and are available at JFCS and on Amazon.
The stories related here are a testament to some of the worst brutality the world has ever known, yet most of these narratives also bear witness to the courage and kindness of people who risked their own lives to hide Jewish children during the Holocaust and keep them safe. In presenting these six stories, we honor the courage of the survivors, who tell their stories in the hope of a better future for humanity. As we celebrate the upcoming High Holy Days, may they be written and sealed for a good year.
Sharon Glassberg and Susan Kasle of Jewish Family & Children’s Services and Bryan Davis of the Jewish History Museum contributed to this introduction.